Of the two music-focused films to come out of 2019, Danny Boyle’s Yesterday was by far the more successful. While that movie is very good, it would be a shame to overlook the heartfelt tale from Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha that uses the music of Bruce Springsteen to tell a universal tale of acceptance and the power of music. Blinded By The Light is inspired by Sarfraz Manzoor’s 2007 memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll in which he recounts how the music of The Boss gave him a portal to a larger world that completely changed how he experienced life. The film is not quite a jukebox musical in the vein of Rocketman, but it does heavily feature characters strongly reacting to music from Springsteen. The movie is imbued with such earnestness and joy that it cannot help but be a total crowd pleaser.
Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a young Pakistani man growing up in 1987 Thatcher-era England under rigid parents who want him to stay on a path that gives him the greatest success. The nation is being besieged by rampant unemployment and racism that is making it even harder for immigrants to make any sort of life for themselves. Javed dreams of going to college, which does not gel with the practical plan of becoming an accountant his father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), has envisioned for him. In his free time, Javed writes poetry and lyrics for his best friend Matt’s (Dean-Charles Chapman, 1917) band, which Matt feels is too depressing. Through a mixture of an inspiring teacher (Hayley Atwell) and an intriguing girl, Eliza (Nell Williams), Javed becomes more interested in creative writing. This passion is fueled even more when he befriends a Sikh named Roops (Aaron Phagura), who introduces Javed to the power of Bruce Springsteen. While initially dubious, Javed discovers that Bruce speaks to the plight of the workingman in a way that is completely relatable to his life. This allows Javed to tap into a creativity that he had never been able to access before.
The movie does an admirable job of balancing the macro-level politics of the time and its affect on the family with the interpersonal conflicts caused by fear and stubbornness. Javed tries to share his new passion with his family, but the cultural and generational differences are just too much to overcome at first. Javed is doing some of the best writing of his life, which is catching the attention of his teachers and opening up doors previously unknown to him. At the same time, Malik is laid off which causes a financial strain and high tensions within the family. It is an emotional journey as Javed and his parents clash and disagree over how he should be living his life. The movie does not depict Javed as having all the right answers, though, as he is assisted in developing a well-rounded viewpoint from the politically motivated Eliza. The two have an endearing burgeoning relationship that serves as interesting B-plot, but the movie never forgets that the most important relationship is with his parents.
Blinded By The Light wears its heart on its sleeve and has multiple sequences showcasing a character experiencing overwhelming emotion that can only be conveyed through The Boss. Some may find it a bit too saccharine, but the movie earns every ounce of joy that is beaming off the screen. It does slightly falter as it tries to juggle multiple plot threads including a minor falling out with Matt and some other family issues, but it mostly sticks the landing with what it is trying to accomplish. This film provides important social commentary that strongly parallels some of our modern day issues without being too in your face about it. This is a joyous coming-of-age family movie that has a soundtrack that is beyond reproach. We all need a little more happiness is our lives, and this movie will do the trick.
Blinded By The Light comes to Blu-Ray with a delightful AVC encoded 1080p transfer that accurately represents the drab period English landscape. While the overall palette is a bit muted, there are strong bursts of color that make an impression such as costumes and lighting in dance clubs. There is a nice clarity to the picture that showcases strong facial and textural details that highlight the carefully crafted production design. Black levels hold up fairly well with only a slight amount of detail lost in darker scenes on occasion. Overall, this is a pleasing transfer for a modestly budgeted movie.
The Blu-Ray comes with a 7.1 Dolby True mix that is quite excellent without being domineering. The music of Springsteen is paramount to getting to the heart of this film, and this track does a great job of filling the room in a truly enveloping way. Dialogue comes through clearly without ever falling victim to overlapping voices or an overbearing soundtrack. Everything is mixed perfectly with directionality accurately rendered across all channels. Crowd scenes provide a good amount of activity in the rear channels, and music stirs up some activity in the low end. This track honors the spirit of a movie so passionate about music.
- Memoir to Movie: A six-minute featurette in which director Gurinder Chadha discusses what she was trying to accomplish with the movie along with the freedom they felt not to be slavish to the Sarfraz Manzoor’s story. The cast and crew also discuss how important it was to get Bruce’s music into the movie and why shooting on location gave the movie extra vibrancy.
- The Most Crazy Thing: A seven-minute featurette that focuses on Sarfraz’s connection with Bruce Springsteen including how telling his story helped him resolve some issues with his late father. There is some really cool footage of Sarfraz and Gurinder meeting Bruce long before the movie was even a possibility, along with some footage of the movie’s premiere at Sundance where they realized they had made a crowd pleaser. The road to getting the movie made is as heartwarming as the actual movie.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes: Ten-minutes of scenes that are mostly extensions of existing scenes that have some interesting bit, but primarily convey information that is already handled in other instances. Worth a watch, but the movie has been edited well in its final form.
Blinded By The Light is the perfect coming-of-age story for our times. The story of an immigrant finding his path via the music of one of the rock ‘n’ rolls’ most iconic artists is too good to pass up. The movie balances genuine emotion with a heartwarming undercurrent that makes for an epic crowd-pleaser. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provides a very nice A/V presentation with some fun extras. Do not miss the opportunity to bring a bit of joy into your life. Recommended
Blinded By The Light is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.