Talk about a dream,
Try to make it real.
Bruce Springsteen, “The Badlands”
Today, I’m wrapping up our summer of blockbusters with a film that is the perfect finale for this summer of cinema. Firstly, it is not a blockbuster, which is very on theme for this year’s lineup. Secondly, it centers around music and a specific artist. Thirdly (and finally), that artist is The Boss, which requires no further explanation.
Based on the memoir “Greetings from Bury Park” by Sarfraz Manzoor, “Blinded by the Light,” is a different kind of coming-of-age story that we can all relate to.
Set just north of London in the town of Luton in the late ’80s, the film follows 16-year-old Javed (Viveik Kalra) as he struggles to find his own identity apart from his family and the judgment of some in his community. As a Pakistani immigrant, he deals with intolerance and despicable behavior from some. While the film doesn’t dwell on the racism and bigotry, it does show it for what it is, which is a part of these peoples lives.
(Side Note: If you’re not familiar with the partition of India, you can read about it here. I promise you, it’s incredibly relevant and will help you to better comprehend the layers of awfulness experienced by Pakistani immigrants to the UK…or you can cheat and watch the “Doctor Who” episode)
When Javed is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen, it’s like his fears, angst, and dreams have all been perfectly captured by a total stranger from New Jersey. As an aspiring writer and lyricist, his connection with the words of these songs is powerful. The lyrics quite literally inhabit his world. They float through the air, fuel his confidence, and drive him to action, quite literally in some instances.
The film’s most “musical theater” moment is when Javed goes for the girl (Nell Williams). Turns out “Thunder Road, works really well as an angsty, teenage love ballad. Although, I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising. As the film more eloquently explains, the best music is transcendent. It doesn’t belong to one person or experience. It is both shared and incredibly personal for each and every individual. Not only that but as you change, so does the song. It meets you where you are at that point in your journey.
It seems like such a simple story on the surface, fanboy obsesses over Springsteen. But as anyone who has ever just truly connected with a song can tell you, it’s so much more. Music has the power to make you feel seen and heard. It makes you feel less alone. That’s a truly special thing for anyone, but when you live in a world that doesn’t know you and judges you for it, well, the right song can be life-changing.
Like I said, this film is not a blockbuster. Its power comes a place of connection. It delves into darkness but leaves you with hope and light. After all, a world where a boy from just north of London can relate to lyrics written by a boy from New Jersey can’t be all that bad, right?
…just for fun: