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Blinded by the Light is a feelgood tale for devotees of the Boss

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
directed by Gurinder Chadha

Bend It Like Beckham director’s Thatcher-era movie sings it like Springsteen.

Last month’s comedy release Yesterday might have delivered one young Anglo-Asian finding his purpose in life after a conversion to rock’s Old Testament. Blinded by the Light gives us another in the story of teenager Javed (newcomer Viveik Kalra), whose dull life as a dutiful son in 1987 Luton is upended by his discovery of Bruce Springsteen. Set against the political and economic turmoil of Thatcher’s Britain, it’s a more serious affair than Yesterday. Its picture of immigrant family life recalls director Gurinder Chadha’s earlier Bhaji on the Beach, and its tale of teenage rebellion and fandom has parallels to her breakthrough hit Bend it Like Beckham.

Throwing Springsteen tunes such as Born to Run and Thunder Road onto streets ruled by Vauxhall Vivas and Morris Marinas works rather well, even if a few of the anthems get some amusingly crummy choreography sequences involving Javed and his mates. The story of the inspiration Javed takes from the lyrics – to follow his dream to become a writer, get a girlfriend and defy his traditionalist father’s expectations – is sweetly earnest, a product of being a loose adaptation of Greetings from Bury Park, a 2007 memoir from journalist Sarfraz Manzoor.

As with Springsteen’s shows, though, it can go on a bit. Its feelgood jubilance and laboured storytelling aren’t enough to sustain the interest for its two hours on screen. Still, the Springsteen faithful will find it an enjoyable testament to his universal human touch.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★

This article was first published in the August 31, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.