Viveik Kalra headlines Blinded By The Light, from Gurinder Chadha – and here’s our review.
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Release date: 9th August
Reviewer: Simon Brew
The Internet Movie Database likes to put things into boxes. Men In Black International, for instance, fits into action, adventure, comedy and sci-fi. X-Men: Dark Phoenix? Action, adventure, sci-fi. Gurinder Chadha’s new film, Blinded By The Light? Well, by my reckoning, it covers comedy, drama, coming of age, musical, historical, biographical and Bruce Springsteen. There’s a reason I don’t have a job at the IMDB.
Quite why we don’t celebrate Gurinder Chadha more, I don’t know. Co-writing the script with Paul Mayeda Berges and Sarfraz Manzoor (who penned the book the film is based on), she’s fashioned a film that has much today within its mainstream clothes. On the surface, it’s the story of 16-year-old Javed – played by Viveik Kalra, in his big screen debut – who we find in 1987, living in Luton, wanting to write, and struggling to conform to the wishes and demands of his dad (played by Kulvinder Ghir). Thanks to a tape of music lent to him by his friend Roops (Aaron Phagura), Javed finds himself beguiled and inspired by the lyrics and music of Bruce Springsteen. With further encouragement from his teacher, Hayley Atwell’s Miss Clay, he starts to find his voice. The path to a coming of age movie is paved.
However, that’s only part of what the film does. Because it also sets this against the rise of the National Front in Luton in the mid-80s, the expectations placed on Pakistani immigrants to the UK, and the impact of Margaret Thatcher’s then government. Furthermore, it introduces us to at least five different characters who are so well drawn the film could easily be about them too. For me, though, it’s also the capturing of the father-son dynamic between Ghir and Kalra. The falling father and the rising son. The former trying to do the best for his family, the latter trying to follow his heart. It’s a relationship so well played that it brought me to tears more than once.
It’s a film with much to say, and it’s particularly on reflection that I realised just how much Chadha has packed in here. She’s done so in a film that’s got energy and pace to spare, and is willing to switch from musical numbers to the occasional shocking moment. But, crucially, that mainstream coating is sublime. Based around the music of Bruce Springsteen, you get one heck of a coming of age movie. And if there are moments that are perhaps a little too convenient, feeling like they exist just to speed the story, it’s hard to begrudge the movie them.
Funny, moving, surprising and really well played, it’s one of the biggest treats of the summer.