Blinded by the Light (2019 film)
Blinded by the Light is a 2019 British comedy-drama film directed by Gurinder Chadha, inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his love of the works of Bruce Springsteen. Manzoor co-wrote the script, with Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges. It is based on Manzoor's memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll. Set in the town of Luton in 1987 Thatcherite Britain, the film tells the coming-of-age story of Javed, a British-Pakistani Muslim teenager whose life is changed after he discovers the music of Springsteen. Viveik Kalra stars in the lead role, along with Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir and Nell Williams in supporting roles.
|Blinded by the Light|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gurinder Chadha|
|Based on||Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll|
by Sarfraz Manzoor
|Music by||A. R. Rahman|
|Edited by||Justin Krish|
|Box office||$1.2 million|
The film premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was released by Entertainment One in the United Kingdom on 9 August 2019, and by Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema in the United States on 16 August 2019. Blinded by the Light received positive reviews from critics, and also received nominations for Best Film and Best Actor (for Kalra) at the 2019 SIFF Awards.
This section's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (August 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
In 1980, young Javed Khan (Ronak Singh Chadha Berges) is with his best friend Matt (Billy Barratt), who just got a new bike. Javed writes in his journal about how the Russians have been occupying Pakistan, which forced his family to relocate to Britain. He and Matt have dreams of going to London together when they are older. The boys then ride the bike together.
Seven years later, Javed (now played by Viviek Chadra) lives in Luton with his parents Malik (Kuvinder Ghir) and Noor (Meera Ganatra), and sisters Yasmeen (Tara Divina) and Shazia (Nikita Mehta). Javed has an interest in contemporary rock music, which Malik does not approve of. He rides his bike to see Matt (now played by Dean-Charles Chapman), who is returning from a trip to Ibiza with his girlfriend Emma (Kit Reeve). After giving him a gift, Malik comes nearby and reacts with disgust at Matt and Emma making out. Javed goes back home to receive birthday gifts from his family. He secretly wishes to escape his town, as well as to make a lot of money and to kiss a girl.
Javed writes lyrics for Matt’s band, as well as his own poems on the side. Matt critiques Javed’s work for being depressing. Javed expresses his desire to go to Manchester University so that he can definitely leave Luton.
Javed begins his first day at a new school. Malik embarrasses him in front of the other students by loudly ordering him to stay away from girls, as well as to find a Jewish friend to be successful. Javed feels out of place, as he is one of only two Pakistani students attending the school. He bumps into the other student, Roops (Aaron Phagura), who says he is listening to “The Boss”. Javed then goes to Ms. Clay’s (Hayley Atwell) class where he develops a crush on an activist student named Eliza (Nell Williams). Ms. Clay wants to teach her students how to develop their writing skills, which is something that Javed takes interest in. He talks to her after class about what he has written.
During lunch, Javed sits alone since he doesn’t know anyone. Roops approaches him and gives him two Bruce Springsteen cassettes, as he calls Bruce “the key to all that is true in this shitty world.”
On his way back home from school, Javed passes a racist punk spray-painting “Pakis Out” on a wall before he spits on Javed. He then starts to follow Javed until he runs up to Matt’s apartment door to be greeted by him and Emma. They invite him to a party to go to later, but when Javed brings it up at dinner, his father forbids him from going. Later, the family gathers with other Pakistani friends, but a group of young boys outside mock the family by peeing through their mail slot and calling them “Pakis”.
Javed wants to write for the school paper, but he is rejected since the head of the paper doesn’t care to read his work. When he gets home later, the family watches the news about General Motors laying off a large number of employees, including Malik. He comes home in frustration. This, along with the constant racist berating and Malik’s inability to understand his son, takes a toll on Javed’s nerves, and he tells Shazia that they were born in the wrong time, place, and family. He even throws his poems out because he feels like giving up. When he goes back to his room, the Springsteen tapes fall out of his backpack. He decides to give them a listen, and he hears “Dancing in the Dark” for the first time. The lyrics immediately grab him, like something inside him has been awakened. He then listens to “The Promised Land” as he goes outside to recover his poems, and after hearing more of Bruce’s songs, Javed feels as though his life has just changed.
Javed goes to school and excitedly tells Roops how he listened to both tapes and feels as though Bruce knows exactly how he feels. He becomes inspired to continue writing, and he even brings his collection of poems to Ms. Clay for her to read. Naturally, Malik disapproves of Javed listening to The Boss. The family is then visited by a neighbor, Mr. Evans (David Hayman). He found one of Javed’s poems in which he speaks against the National Front, who are planning a march. As a former WWII soldier, Mr. Evans sympathizes with Javed’s feelings and tells him he wrote a brilliant poem. However, Javed’s parents are less appreciative.
Javed returns to the head of the school paper with a piece he wrote on Springsteen. He insists that it be read, so the head gives it a shot. Meanwhile, Malik becomes aggravated over the mounting bills he cannot pay, and he is even more stressed out since Yasmeen is set to be married, and he doesn’t think he can pay for the wedding. He has the rest of the family pool their money together to support each other. Javed goes around town looking for a job, while still listening to more Bruce.
Javed goes to a restaurant with Roops, when they are forced out of their seats by three racist punks. Javed realizes he left a tape on the table and goes to get it, but even as one of the punks refuses to give it back, Javed retaliates by proudly quoting “Badlands” with Roops, and they walk out of the restaurant the better men.
At a local flea market, Javed meets Matt and his father (Rob Brydon), who also shares Javed’s love for The Boss. Javed asks Matt’s dad for a job since he operates the place, and he says he can give him something but it wouldn’t pay a lot. He then sees Eliza there with her friends, and, with Matt’s dad’s help, Javed sings “Thunder Road”, which charms Eliza and the crowd. However, Matt’s dad starts to mock Matt for his lack of musical know-how, which deeply upsets him, especially since Javed doesn’t back him up. This causes a rift between the two friends.
Javed works up the nerve to ask Eliza out on a date. She picks the place to go, which is a rave spot. Javed doesn’t feel right about going in, so he nearly ditches the date until he listens to more Bruce. He sings “Prove It All Night” to let Eliza know he is staying, and the two share their first kiss. The next morning, he leaves a poem taped to Eliza’s window, which she loves.
During Ms. Clay’s class, she tells Javed that she loved his poems. She mentions having a friend at the Herald, and she can get Javed in to have unpaid work experience, which he is thankful for.
Javed and Roops want to join the school’s radio station to play non-stop Springsteen, but the station’s head denies them. The boys later sneak into the station after the head leaves, and they play “Born To Run” for all the school to hear, while locking the door to the station to prevent anyone from stopping it. The two then go out on the town with Eliza after school for a fun time out, which ends as they come across the town’s mosque which has a severed pig’s head hanging from it in another racist act of intimidation.
Eliza invites Javed over for dinner to meet her parents. They are NOT subtle about their thoughts on the pair, as they believe that Eliza always brings home any type of guy that might provoke them. Javed tries his best to hide his discomfort.
Javed and Roops are called in to the Headmistress’s office about the radio station prank, but after giving her an apology, they don’t get in any serious trouble for it. He later gets into an argument with Malik over working for the Herald without pay. As he walks home by himself, Javed sees Matt, who is still not talking to him. When he finally does, he expresses his dismay for Javed not defending him in front of his dad when Matt has stuck up for Javed against racist pricks before. Javed notices that Mr. Evans overheard everything, and his advice to the boy is that “good friends deserve to be heard.” With this advice, Javed goes to apologize to Matt, and Matt gets excited when he learns that Javed now has a girlfriend.
Javed has Eliza over his house to make out, but they are seen by Shazia. She promises not to tell their parents on the condition that Javed does something that she wants to do. Javed agrees and later takes her to a dance hall with other British Pakistanis.
At the Herald, Javed is asked to cover a story about the mosque, in which he receives payment. He keeps this information from his parents.
On the day of Yasmeen’s wedding, Javed learns that Bruce is coming to Wembley, and it may be his one chance to see him live. He runs to buy tickets from Emma with the money he earned at work. While the family is driving to the wedding, they are stopped by police as the National Front is making their march, calling for an all white Britain. Eliza is among the protesters there. Malik and a friend of his get out of their car and are attacked by NF members. Javed rushes to the scene to find his father injured and on the ground. Later, Javed is chastised for not being there, and he admits that he got the concert tickets with money from work. Malik is angry that Javed had his own money that he didn’t give to the family, and he takes the tickets and rips them up. Javed angrily tells Malik he doesn’t want to be his son, and that he wants more out of his life. The words stun Malik and Noor.
At school, even Eliza can’t believe that Javed abandoned his family for concert tickets. He says they shouldn’t be together because of them, and she berates him for using his family as an excuse. In class, Ms. Clay tells Javed that she submitted a piece of his work for a contest, and he was selected to be part of a field trip to visit Monmouth College in New Jersey for their writing program. Ms. Clay also notes that he would be close to Asbury Park where Bruce grew up. Javed knows his father wouldn’t let him go, so he turns it down. However, he changes his mind and tells Malik that he plans on going. Malik tells Javed that if he leaves, he is not to come back. Javed proceeds to pack his bags.
Javed and Roops take the trip to the States to visit Jersey and Asbury Park. It inspires Javed to write something new. Back home, Noor tells Malik that he needs to fix things with his son, as he left his own family and country at a young age as well.
Javed is picked to read his winning paper to the school. Eliza talks to Noor and gets Javed’s whole family to show up in support. Javed sees his family and delivers his reading without looking at the paper. He talks about how he heard “Blinded By The Light” and was reminded of Malik and his own father, and how he thinks Bruce would understand how Malik felt about his anger toward his own dreams not going out as planned to provide for his family. Everyone is moved, and they applaud Javed. He reconciles with Eliza and thanks her for inviting his family. Malik then talks to Javed and admits that he has listened to Bruce, and he admires his lyrics about being a good person and respecting your family.
Javed is set to go off to his university. He bids Matt farewell and receives a demo CD with new lyrics that Javed wrote. After saying goodbye to Noor and Shazia, Javed prepares to drive off with Malik. He starts playing Pakistani music on the radio, but Malik changes it so that they listen to “Born To Run” together. As they drive out of town, Javed sees his younger self waving to him.
We then see pictures of the real Javed Khan, who has seen The Boss in concert over 150 times. He is also still great friends with Roops (also pictured) to this day.
In the United States and Canada, Blinded by the Light was released alongside Where'd You Go, Bernadette, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and Good Boys, and is projected to gross around $4 million from 2,000 theaters in its opening weekend.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91% based on 161 reviews, with an average rating of 7.44/10. The site's consensus reads: "Like a life-affirming rock anthem, Blinded by the Light hits familiar chords with confidence and flair, building to a conclusion that leaves audiences cheering for an encore." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 71 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Johnny Oleksinski of The New York Post calls it "the feel-good movie of the year". Jordan Ruimy of The Playlist calls it "one of the most joyous and exhilarating movies you will see this year". Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly calls it an ode to "the power of music". Anthony Ray Bench of Film Threat calls it "a feel-good movie that tackles a bunch of tough topics, from politics, race, family traditions, social frustrations, and romance" yet "never feels preachy or overly cheesy." Adam Chitwood of Collider calls it "a rapturously joyous, heartfelt, and genuinely insightful film not just about The Boss, but about the personal nature and power of music."
Owen Gleiberman of Variety calls it "the sort of unguarded drama they used to make in the ‘80s — a coming-of-age tale of unabashed earnestness — but it’s also a delirious and romantic rock ‘n’ roll parable" that is "a more incandescent ode to the life force of pop music than any film ever adapted from the work of Nick Hornby." Bedatri Datta Choudhury of Vague Visages says that, while "Springsteen takes the American dream and helps everyone navigate through its dismantling," Chadha "makes it speak to an entirely different country and a whole new generation."
At the 2019 SIFF Awards in the Seattle International Film Festival, Blinded by the Light received nominations for Best Film (for director Gurinder Chadha) and Best Actor (for Viveik Kalra). In July 2019, Ethan Anderson of /Film listed Blinded by the Light as the eighth best film of 2019 so far.
Springsteen allowed twelve of his songs to be used in the soundtrack and it features several Springsteen rarities, including the first performance of “The River,” from the No Nukes concerts at Madison Square Garden in 1979 and an acoustic rendition of “The Promised Land” that Springsteen performed in 2014 at Washington, D.C.’s National Mall. The soundtrack also showcases a number of Springsteen's classics such as “Badlands,” “Hungry Heart” and a 1975 acoustic recording of “Thunder Road" performed at The Roxy Theatre.
- "BLINDED BY THE LIGHT (2019) (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
- Verhoeven, Beatrice; Williams, Trey (23 April 2019). "10 Riskiest, Priciest Summer Movie Gambles, From 'Dark Phoenix' to 'Detective Pikachu'". TheWrap. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
- "Blinded by the Light (2019) – Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
- Ehrlich, David (28 January 2019). "'Blinded by the Light' Review: An Ecstatic Story About the Power of Springsteen — Sundance". IndieWire. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- Tartaglione, Nancy (11 April 2018). "Gurinder Chadha's 'Blinded By The Light' Blessed By Bruce Springsteen; Cast Set". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- Manzoor, Sarfraz (27 July 2019). "Bruce Springsteen changed my life… and so did my best friend Amolak". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
- Lee, Benjamin (28 January 2019). "Blinded by the Light review – Bruce Springsteen inspires mawkish misfire". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
- "Blinded by the Light Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
- "Sundance Unveils Politics-Heavy Lineup Featuring Ocasio-Cortez Doc, Feinstein Drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
- "New Line Confirms $15M Deal For Bruce Springsteen-Infused 'Blinded By The Light'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
- Pedersen, Erik (16 July 2019). "Warner Bros' Sesame Street Pic Moved Back Five Months; 'Just Mercy' Gets Christmas Limited Release". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
- Rubin, Rebecca (13 August 2019). "With Five More New Releases, Can Any Movie Break Through at the Box Office in August". Variety. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "Blinded by the Light (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (16 August 2019). "'Good Boys' Grabs Great $2.1M Thursday Night". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
- Oleksinski, Johnny (29 January 2019). "'Blinded by the Light' is already the feel-good movie of the year". New York Post. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- "'Blinded By The Light': The Transformative Power Of Bruce Springsteen Fuels This Excellent Crowdpleaser [Sundance Review]". The Playlist. 29 January 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- "'Blinded by the Light' is a tender, heartfelt ode to the music of Bruce Springsteen: Sundance review". Entertainment Weekly. 28 January 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- Bench, Anthony Ray (30 January 2019). "Blinded by the Light". Film Threat. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- Chitwood, Adam (29 January 2019). "'Blinded by the Light' Review: A Joyous, Poignant Ode to Bruce Springsteen". Collider. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- Gleiberman, Owen (28 January 2019). "Sundance Film Review: 'Blinded by the Light'". Variety. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- Choudhury, Bedatri Datta (13 May 2019). "New York Indian Film Festival Review: Gurinder Chadha's 'Blinded by the Light'". Vague Visages. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- "SIFF 2019 Award Winners". SIFF. Seattle International Film Festival. 9 June 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
- Anderton, Ethan (1 July 2019). "Ethan Anderton's Top 10 Movies of 2019 So Far". /Film. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
- Lifton, Dave. "THE STORY BEHIND EVERY BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SONG IN 'BLINDED BY THE LIGHT". ultimateclassicrock.com. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
- "Hollywood is hoping music biopics are their new golden ticket". The Week. 31 May 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.