Remember when you first heard your favorite music artist for the first time? The sensation of your mind opening up to the rhythm of the beat and words of the lyrics. Changed your life forever and seeing the world with new eyes? Well, now you can relive that moment with Warner Brothers’ new non-musical musical “Blinded by the Light”. There’s been a somewhat recent trend in music artists taking on cinema screens in the last couple years: Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, and Yesterday taking the music of Queen, Elton John, and the Beatles to the big screen rocking out the theater with timeless music. Now we have the music of Bruce Springsteen, but through the eyes and hears of an inspiring writer while in high school in 1987 United Kingdom.
Inspired by true-life events, this coming-of-age story revolves around Javed, a British-Pakistani Muslim teenager who dreams of becoming a writer and getting away from home to accomplish his goals. Dealing with his identity as a South Asian growing up in Britain has its challenges. Along with his lack of self-confidence, he befriends a fellow schoolmate who shows him the light, pun intended, with the music of Bruce Springsteen. The film takes brings to life how one’s mind could open to new territories. The visuals decide to project lyrics on screen as if it were a music video or karoke sing-along. This is not so much of a distraction as it helps emphasize Javed’s emotional journey as if he’s seeing the words coming to life. Javed strives to live and breath the rest of his life though Springsteen’s music, despite the artist being seen at the time as “old news” and “irrelevant”.
“Blinded by the Light” packs in multiple layers of story that goes deeper than what the movie trailers may lead you to think. The movie is Javed’s story just as much as it is for the character of his father. On top of being a movie about a young boy’s self-discovery, his father also unwillingly goes along with the journey. Both father and son have deep emotional arcs with the generational gap that pulls them apart and later binds them. Javed was practically living a double life, but what teenager didn’t do that with their parents? They also must face the reality of prejudice and hate from white supremacy groups; making the film even more relevant for today’s audience. From American eyes, even racism can not escape from time or place and thus we are doomed to repeat history over and over again. I was especially invested when the father broke down in tears while having his hair dyed by his over-worked wife. The scene must have been purposely chosen to reflect an aging father having his wife working on making him look younger and trying to act as everything will turn out for the best in the end despite the hardships of unemployment and maintaining the status of the head of the household. The pressure can be unbearable. And truly displays the sacrifices parents would make for their family.
Even if you are not familiar with the music of Bruce Springsteen, there is so much more to admire about this feel-good flick. Dance your way into the theater with optimism, hope, an open mind, and heart for this bright comedy-drama. The best non-musical musical film of the year!