- Colin Fraser
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
TWO AND A HALF STARS Javid's life gets a kick start when he discovers the healing properties of Bruce Springsteen.
Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir
COMEDY DRAMA #BLINDEDBYTHELIGHT
It's 1987 and teenage Javid is struggling to reconcile his desperation to leave school and become a writer with his father's wishes that he get a real job, like a lawyer, in recession hit Luton. He’s knee deep in Thatcher’s Britain where jobs are scarce and skinheads line up to spit on Pakistanis like him. It’s a hopeless situation made worse by his lack of a girlfriend and inability to write catchy lyrics for his best friend’s band. Then one day he’s introduced to Bruce Springsteen (figuratively speaking) and Javid’s life changes forever. Or at least it will once he sorts out his father, gets a girlfriend, avoids the neo-nazis, pens an amazing song and becomes a writer. But at least now he has a guide, a spiritual mentor. He has Bruce, he can see the light.
So starts this occasionally entertaining comedy-drama from Gurinder Chadha (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM); one that starts in her character’s desperation then spends most of the rest of the movie there as well. Talk about being stuck in your comfort zone. The (overlong) story has occasional break outs into more interesting area but the repetitive structure soon pushes you back to the familiar as it leans heavily on period cliché - music, hair cuts and padded shoulders - for emotional support. There’s also a sense that the leads aren’t entirely up to the task at hand though to be fair, there’s an equal sense that Chadha is more interested in the scenes than the actors. Too often support are left to smile through a scene and hope for the best - Javid’s best friend Roop for instance - though the opposite applies for his put upon mother. She simply gets to frown a lot.
Although this is a movie about inspirational force of music, it lands with all the force of a fridge poster - earnest, heart felt yet mawkish and heavy handed. It becomes a recurring theme as Javid’s journey to adulthood, or Chadha’s commentary about being an outsider in Luton or Thatcher’s Britain, dissolve into the background for want of real emotional punch. It doesn’t help that pacing is also problematic - the best moments feel rushed with lesser scenes running far too long. That said, when the film finds its feet, which it often does, BLINDED BY THE LIGHT is a fun, telling and enjoyable romp. If only it got there more often than it does.