Sometimes, the only thing to do is to whack on your headphones and blast the feelings out with a song. A song by an artist who gets you, even if you’ve never actually met and you have vastly different life experiences. For some reason, for whatever beautifully brilliant reason, you connect with their words and they express exactly how you are feeling in a way you’d never be able to. For journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, that artist is Bruce Springsteen. Discovering him as a teenager, The Boss transcended race, religion and region. He spoke of dreams, longing and disappointment – exactly what on-the-cusp-of-adolescence Manzoor needed to hear and which he later reflected upon in his 2007 book Greetings from Bury Park.
With writer-director Gurinder Chadha at the helm, Blinded By The Light is inspired by Manzoor’s story. Our lead character is Javed (Viveik Kalra). He’s just started college, has aspirations of becoming a writer yet believes this to be an impossibility due to pressures from his father. His father believes his children, Javed and two sisters, should be good Pakistani children. They may live in Luton, and have been born there, but they’re not ‘from’ there. The fact the year is 1987 means that he’s not the only one who believes that, with Javed facing racial intolerance on a daily basis. His initial outlet of poetry becomes something more when new-friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) hands him two Bruce Springsteen cassettes and insists Javed listens to them.
You can sort of guess what comes next, which does nothing to dampen the delightfulness of the film. In fact, it sort of enhances it. Although we may have a rough idea of where things are going, it makes the journey all the more enjoyable. There’s one moment in particular, that features in the trailer, which seems predictable to the point of contrivance – a moment which Chadha and Manzoor revealed at a recent Picturehouse Central Q&A did actually happen. You can follow a formula but still create magic.
It seems corny to say it will make you laugh and cry, but…it will make you laugh and cry. And yes, it is immensely feelgood. The musical sequences are when the film is at its most electric, the initial discovery of Bruce at one of Javed’s lowest moments is simultaneously joyous yet heart-crushing. By the time ‘Born To Run’ finally makes an appearance, sound-tracking a celebration of friendship that demands recreating, you’ll be soaring in the aisles.
What the film has, which makes it so brilliant and transcends the tropes it favours, is its heart. It’s endearing, earnest and apologetically sentimental. Its themes, the importance of being seen and finding your tribe, are universal and are presented in a manner than can only be described as life-affirming.
As gloriously euphoric as the finest of Bruce’s anthems.
Blinded By The Light is in UK cinemas from 9th August.