This has been a good year for movies about people in England rocking out. We had a pretty good musical biopic, a whimsical story about a famous band never forming, and now we have an adaptation of a British man’s connection to the music of Bruce Springsteen.
Is there any real connection between those three? Not really. But Blinded by the Light is out now all the same.
Young Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra) is the son of Pakistani immigrants living in the economically depressed English town of Luton. The year is 1987, and Margaret Thatcher”s England isn’t always friendly to people like Javed and his family. Factor in as well that Javid’s father runs a very traditional Pakistani household. He makes all the decisions, collects all the money every member of the family earns at various jobs, and even believes he will one day choose a wife for his only son. Between his father’s strict rules, the fascist-leaning National Front, and just the casual racism Javed experiences every day, he’s about to give up on life.
Then he meets the only other Asian student at his school, Roops. Roops is a huge fan of the Boss. Javed doesn’t know who that is, so Roops shares. When Javed finally gives the Bruce Springsteen tapes a listen, it hits him. Springsteen’s songs and lyrics really do sound like Bruce is talking about Javed’s own life. From there, he can’t get enough of the Boss.
It’s an interesting set-up. Javed’s interest in Springsteen doesn’t really connect him to anybody. Sure, he has Roops, but his family isn’t into any sort of rock’n’roll, particularly some American guy they’ve never heard of. Kids his own age find Springsteen’s work too retro. The only really fan Javed meets outside of Roops is his best friend Matt’s father. But that doesn’t matter. Javed uses the music at key moments to make him a little more assertive. Because of this inspiration, he can stand up for himself to various jerks and even woo a cute classmate. Soon, Javed’s writing, something he’s been doing secretly for years, starts to get some notice in and out of school. The only real obstacle is his father, a man who insists his son study economics or something practical.
There’s a lot to like about this movie. Featuring a cast of mostly actors I don’t recognize (save Hayley Atwell as Javed’s English teacher), the movie is mostly a sweet crowdpleaser about growing up. Despite initial impressions, Javed’s father is not a villain. The movie does make both Khan men sympathetic. Malik Khan is merely set in his ways, mostly refusing to assimilate the way his children do especially after he loses his factory job. Plus, family is just as important to Javed as it is to Malik.
Now, I did have moments where I wondered, often during one of the movie’s various musical montages, if I was watching a dream sequence, but it isn’t that sort of movie. Mostly it’s about a fellow who ain’t a boy but is now a man. Because he believed in a promised land. It’s a sweet movie. 8.5 out of 10 poems rescued from the rain.