Bruce Springsteen’s music is steeped in Americana. It’s a blue collar look into the US, past and present, joining the dots from the country’s Old West to the post-Obama Trump administration. Therefore, it’s very interesting to discover that the first real film to use Springsteen’s music isn’t an American film about a working class hero, but a coming of age tale about a British Pakistani teenager growing up in Thatcher’s Britain in the 1980s.
Based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s biographical book, Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll, Gurinder Chadha’s film follows Javed (Viveik Kalra) as he tries to navigate the rocky road of race, religion. love and family loyalty. The only guiding light is the music of Bruce Springsteen. This isn’t a film about an American Land, it’s about a fire burning within a young man, who knows he was born to run. On an emotional level he might be dancing in the dark, but he’s willing to break the ties that bind and seek out better days, even if that means he’s going to be treading on rocky ground.
Blinded By The Light features an impressive performance from relative newcomer Viveik Kalra who manages to get across Javed and his many troubles. The supporting cast is filled out with familiar faces including Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydaon and Sally Phillips. They all do well and they help sell the story, even if we can guess the obvious character beats and plot points. This isn’t ground-breaking storytelling, but it is entertaining.
Fans of Springsteen won’t be disappointed by the amount of classic tracks which litter the soundtrack. It’s a great rundown of some of the Boss’s most iconic songs including Blinded By The Light (obviously), Dancing In the Dark, Born To Run, Thunder Road, The River and more. That’s enough to keep the hardcore fans happy but these tunes are also a wonderful gateway into a whole wealth of wonderful music, if you’re a newcomer to Springsteen’s oeuvre.
It’s very interesting to see how the universal power of music can cross geographic and cultural boundaries and Blinded By The Light illustrates this in a wonderfully composed way. Like director Gurinder Chadha’s previous work such as Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice, it offers a fascinating insight into a facet of British cultural which is constantly underserved in the mainstream media.