#REVIEW: “BLINDED BY THE LIGHT”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a Pakistani teenager living in a small English town in 1987. Like the rest of his family, he works to help pay the bills. His father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has aspirations and dreams for his son, but Javed just wants to be a writer. After he discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed becomes determined more than ever to live life on his terms.
In a season that has given us superheroes, singing CGI lions, killer dolls, Hollywood has-beens we wish altered the course of history for real, not to mention Keanu Reeves, Blinded by the Light stands out as an outlier; the kind of movie studios used to make on-mass and take a chance on, but have moved away from almost entirely. And that is truly unfortunate to note, because Blinded by The Light is the sweetest and most heartfelt film of the entire Summer. Full stop.
For nearly two hours, Co-Writer/Director Gurinder Chadha (who previously gave us Bend It Like Beckham) immerses us in Javed’s coming-of-age, true story-based tale. While portions of this story are unique, it feels universal and lived in. So many of us have faced the same challenges as Javed and understand exactly where he is coming from when he discovers The Boss. Chadha uses that to her advantage, expertly peppering in the laughs, the tears, the romance and the more fantastical elements (including one integral dance scene scored to the immortal “Born to Run”) at just the right times. She even brings in an element of racism that is downright despicable – made all the more horrific because of how contemporary and ripped from the headlines it feels in 2019. Not sure I needed all of the on-screen lyrics though.
The whole Cast is delightful, even when things on-screen are explicitly negative. While they each get their moments to shine (especially Aaron Phagura as Javed’s friend Roops and Nell Williams as his girlfriend Eliza), they are practically all overshadowed by Kalra’s revelatory work as Javed. The relative newcomer soars through the Film with unabashed wonder and glee. We see the world through his eyes, and he makes sure to soak up and sell every single moment. His wide range of emotions is miraculous, and his timing is impeccable. He is having a blast and it shows. Even his narration is terrific. The only one who even comes close to being on his level is Ghir, who gives a raw and often devastating performance as Malik. There is a quiet sadness that radiates through him, especially in his tense scenes with Kalra. Each of those scenes gives the Film the emotional poignancy it needs to rise above all the fun and adventure and become truly special.
I smiled, I laughed, I cried, and I loved just about every single minute of Blinded by The Light. It may be a tad bit predictable, but the genuine love, emotion and admiration on display here both in front and behind the camera are more than enough to overcome it. I do not recall the last time I saw such a wildly enjoyable Crowd-Pleaser, or the last time a Film allowed me to completely forget the turmoil and insanity of real life and just have fun for two hours. Now if you will excuse me, I have some Bruce Springsteen records to buy.
Warner Bros. Canada release BLINDED BY THE LIGHT on Friday, August 16, 2019.