Blinded by the Light

Critics Consensus

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.

89%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 238

91%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 2,633
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Movie Info

1987. When music fanatic Javed discovers the illustrious back catalogue of The Boss his world is turned upside down; already a creative soul his passion for music and writing is set alight by the songs of the working-class poet, whose lyrics feel all too familiar to the aspirational teenager. Yearning to escape his rundown hometown and the rules of his traditional Pakistani household, Javed finds himself caught in between two worlds and must discover if he too is Born to Run...

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Critic Reviews for Blinded by the Light

All Critics (238) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (212) | Rotten (26)

  • The deliberately amateurish style of the musical numbers is supposed to engender spontaneity but too often looks merely cack-handed. Nonetheless, you come out on a high. Springsteen fever proves to be contagious.

    Oct 24, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Despite its predictability, it conveys what it's like to be enraptured by a rock idol.

    Aug 23, 2019 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • Even when it feels as if we've seen this movie before, we've never seen it set to the sounds of the Boss, and we've never seen it from the point of view of this particular terrific kid and his family.

    Aug 16, 2019 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • "Blinded by the Light" represents such a sweet, easy-to-relate-to story that it deserves to be seen, at the least, by anyone who has shown a little faith that there's magic in the arts -- either in music, or a darkened theater.

    Aug 16, 2019 | Full Review…

    Brian Lowry

    CNN.com
    Top Critic
  • Blinded by the Light at its very best, captures the experience of being a fan, the pure exhilaration of it, and the sense of your vision opening out to vistas beyond your horizon.

    Aug 16, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It's a dream of inclusion that feels narrow, a vision of liberation that feels constrained, a view of progress that feels like a lockstep into the future.

    Aug 15, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Blinded by the Light

  • Sep 20, 2019
    A Pakistani youth in middle class Britain suffers from ennui, lack of purpose and a girlfriend, and too much racial bigotry, but finds salvation in the work of Bruce Springsteen. This family film is better than a Hallmark release (although there's some close relation in how themes are handled) and it admirably conveys how the discovery of music can be life-altering.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Aug 31, 2019
    WHO'S THE BOSS? - My Review of BLINDED BY THE LIGHT (3 Stars) I was really into Bruce Springsteen in the 80s. I'd rip open the shrink wrap on every new vinyl record he made and pore over the lyrics even before listening to the songs. He wrote about ordinary people who had shallow pockets but deep souls. His music, which I called a "dive bar wall of sound", had an epic, cinematic quality to it while still retaining a classic meat and potatoes style. The world may have moved on from his type of music, but with Blinded By The Light, Gurinder Chadha, who gave us the delightful Bend It Like Beckham, has delivered a crowd-pleasing film about the love of writing. While it goes a little overboard in the fan service department, its Thatcher Era immigration tale provides for a touching, breezy experience. Viveik Kalra plays Javed, a young student whose Pakistan born parents moved to small town 1987 England to provide a better life for their children. The family patriarch, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) maintains strict control over his long-suffering wife and children. Despite wanting Javed to pursue a more practical profession, he longs for a career as a writer. One day, fellow student Goops (a delightful Aaron Phagura) slips Javed a couple of Springsteen cassettes, thus beginning his instant fandom. Harassed by neighborhood bullies and crushed by his father's domineering parenting style, Javed finds solace in the Boss' songs about escaping his oppressive confines. Chadha, who co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Mayeda Berges and Sarfaz Manzoor, splashes the screen with Springsteen's lyrics for every musical sequence, bringing us seemingly inside Javed's head. Encouraged by one of his college professors, Javed begins writing for the school newspaper while pursuing a sweet relationship with Eliza (Nell Williams), a like-minded young woman. He also has a best friend, Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman who played Tommen Baratheon in Game Of Thrones you guys!) who plays in a new wave synth band and rejects Springsteen as an irrelevant musician only their Dads should like. I could go on with all of the various plot lines, since, needless to say, we've entered kitchen sink territory. In fact, it's all a bit much except when our characters break out in song. Chadha finds the beating heart of her film in such sequences as "Born To Run", sending all of my feel-good squishy vibes through the stratosphere by simply having her leads run down streets and sing. It's simple yet effective filmmaking. Eventually, however, I grew tired of Javed myopically worshipping Springsteen. Would it have killed him to put on a little Bangles or Blondie? It reminded me of my Ohio high school friends who blasted classic rock 24/7. I couldn't wait to move to Los Angeles just so I could listen to The Pretenders without fear of being called a traitor. Having said that, this film does have its heart in the right place. It explores racism, culture wars, and economic hardships and does so with a very pleasing cast. As an exploration of a writer finding his voice, it rings true. What the film does best, however, is in finding the tension between the traditions of Javed's parents with his own need to escape that world. Eventually, it all leads to a predictable speech on a stage, which I found extremely lazy, especially considering all of the creative ways Chadha has found to get us inside Javed's head. All told, Blinded By The Light scores points for getting people to dust off their old Springsteen records and consider his work from an immigrant perspective. It fits right into the current craze of celebrating music icons (Yesterday, Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman) yet retains a humble style reminiscent of English films from the era it's set in, such as My Beautiful Launderette. I most likely won't remember this film in the same way, but I'll probably stop and rewatch the musical sequences whenever it streams.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer
  • Aug 22, 2019
    Was there ever a time in your life when you listened to a record and stopped dead in your tracks to just take in the moment, absorb the music and let the lyrics sink in? Can you picture the exact moment in time? Where you were when it changed your life? When it changed your perspective on life? When I was a teenager, I thought musicians were heroes. I looked up to them as literal gods. I had thought these musicians wrote songs exclusively for me, so that I may have the words to describe how I felt. I didn't know exactly what I felt until I was given that vocabulary. Springsteen wrote songs about how I felt being dissatisfied with my existence in Ashtabula, Ohio, how when every time I looked in the mirror, I wanted to change my clothes, my hair, my face, how I was just living in a dump like this and there just had to be something happening somewhere. His songs told stories of youth wanting to break free of the restrictions and traditions of the old guard, wanting to leave their towns behind for something bigger. His songs also spoke of the hardships many Americans have faced or will face such as recessions, unemployment, and loveless marriages. "Blinded by the Light" tells a story of a teenager who hears Bruce Springsteen for the first time and is given the ability to overcome many obstacles in his life that he, possibly, wouldn't have before if not for the music of Springsteen. The film by Gurinder Chadha (director of "Bend it Like Beckham") finds a new way of telling this story, a story that millions of people may have lived at one time or another since The Boss's first record was released in 1973. Perhaps it wasn't Springsteen that gave these individuals a voice or an outlet, perhaps, a movie, a comic book, a novel, etc. That this movie is about Springsteen's music probably makes my admiration for the film a bit biased. The year is 1987 and Javed (played by Viveik Kalra) is a Pakistani immigrant living in a town called Luton situated northwest of London. His family is extremely traditional, and his father is set in his ways of the old country. He's out of place in the United Kingdom. His father Malik, played by Kulvinder Ghir, says he's Pakistani and that he will never be accepted as a Brit, but Javed wants to belong to the culture he's adopted. He's rather shy and doesn't have much confidence in his writing. While taking an English class for his A-level examinations at a Luton secondary school, he is motivated to find his voice by the teacher who believes in him and his ability as a writer when on one else does. His best friend Matt, looking like he may have been in A Flock of Seagulls with that haircut, tells Javed his lyrics are too depressing and too political. By chance, Javed knocks into another Pakistani Muslim student Roops (played by Aaron Phagura), the only one there besides himself, wearing a jean jacket with the US flag on it and knocks his cassette out of his Walkman. Javed asks who it is, Roops replies that it is "The Boss." "Who's Boss?" The kid smiles and replies to Javed, "The Boss of Us All." Javed goes about his day but perplexed about who that kid was and who was this Boss. Javed is given two cassette tapes in which he is to guard with his life, those cassettes are "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and "Born in the USA." Roops tells Javed that Springsteen is the "direct line to all that is true in this shitty world." And Thatcher era Britain was shitty, the high levels of unemployment, the disappearance of factory jobs many people in Luton held for decades, and threats of violence from neo-Nazis. Maybe it is set in 1987, but it echoes of Trump's America and the UK Boris Johnson will inherit. What's going on in Luton in 1987 plays an important part in the film, if not for the conditions the residents endure in this stuffy, bleak, boring, depressing town, the music of Springsteen may not have taken hold of Javed. Working-class Brits who live outside London like the people in Luton face so much uncertainty. The film recognizs the rise of the right with the National Front Party who want to keep Britain "white" and are anti-immigrant and its impact on Javed and his family. Pakistani homes are desecrated with swastikas and threats to leave the country and go home when they are home. There are marches in the street with the National Front carrying swastikas and doing the "Heil Hitler" salute to intimidate. The local Vauxhall motor company, owned by American GM, is scaling back and is determined to cut costs and lets go half the workforce, which includes Malik. This is contrasted with the synth heavy contemporary music in 1987 where you will hear a-ha, Pet Shop Boys, Level 42, Cutting Crew, Debbie Gibson during the film. The students in Luton College want out of the city as well but escape to New Wave music and try desperately to emulate their idols with the looks embraced by bands of that era who were all flash and no substance. Fandom is taken seriously by teenagers in Luton where students dress like Banarama, Boy George, Wham! How shocking it must have been for Javed to first listen to Bruce and see him in his white t-shirt and blue jeans. Javed becomes absolutely enraptured in the music of Bruce Springsteen after listening to "Dancing in the Dark" and "Prove it All Night." He finds strength and escape in his music. He finds courage and inspiration to find his own voice and write. He writes an essay on Bruce Springsteen and his American Dream and it's put in the school newspaper and his English teacher enters it into a contest. Javed and Roops agree that Springsteen needs to be shared with all their classmates and even break into the school radio station to put Springsteen after a show dedicated to Bruce was denied. "That's what my parents listen to," Javed hears more than once from several characters in the film. Javed's father discourages him from writing or partaking in any Western culture, he tells him not to talk to the girls at school and to follow the Jews, because "they are very successful." His confidence is given another boost when his neighbor Mr. Evans, played by David Hayman, finds one of Javed's discarded poems decrying the National Front. Mr. Evans sympathizes and admires the poem and tells Javed that he put on a uniform to fight the Nazis and is absolutely sickened by all the swastikas he sees invoked by the party and becomes another supporter of his writing. The relationship between Javed and his father become very strained and Malik blames Springsteen, but Springsteen didn't tear them apart but brought them closer together. There are many touching moments in the film, and the ending is quite possibly one of the most satisfying endings I can think of. The film is brilliant, and I realize this may be biased because of my love for Springsteen. The best thing about the movie is that 1980s Britain and the music of Springsteen is told through the eyes of an immigrant Pakistani teenager in the United Kingdom, that may be the most striking element of this film, that he finds his voice through an American musician who in 1987 was still dealing with the monster success of "Born in the USA" a few years earlier. Springsteen's music truly is universal. For those right-wing nationalists who fear immigration and claim that "they" don't want to assimilate, Javed wanted desperately to belong to his adoptive homeland but found it nearly impossible to fit in due to his background. Maybe the problem isn't that immigrants don't want to assimilate, it's that white nationalists won't let them. And let the film also serve as a cautionary tale of the violence towards minorities that comes from right-wing nationalistic sentiments. In what may be the most startling composition of the film, Javed had just witnessed a violent encounter with an NF supporter march through the town that blocked his family's way to the local mosque on his sister's wedding day. Although Javed was out getting Springsteen tickets for the Tunnel of Love Express Tour, he came back to witness the conclusion of the violence and to see his father on the ground, bloodied from an attack by the fascist mob. He stands stunned and the camera looks up to him and in the background is a re-elect Margaret Thatcher billboard with the slogan "Uniting Britain," when in reality her words and actions have caused disunity and fear in the country, not unlike a certain fellow here in the States.
    Joseph B Super Reviewer

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