B Blinded By The Light Cast Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman, Hayley Atwell, Nell Williams, Meera Ganatra, Rob Brydon, Nikita Mehta Availability Theaters everywhere August 16 Blinded By The Light is the latest in what writer-director Gurinder Chadha calls her “genially subversive” filmography, made up of feel-good movies that also tackle difficult topics like racism, sexism, class, and cultural divides.
Blinded By The Light quickly becomes a story of first love—not of the romantic kind, although there’s a bit of that in Javed’s crush on a political-activist classmate (Nell Williams).
Chadha renders that youthful rite of passage in all its over-the-top glory as the lyrics of Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” pop up around Javed’s head as he listens to the song for the first time, while the words of “The Promised Land” spill out into multi-storied projections on the walls of Javed’s neighborhood on the night of the Great Storm of 1987.
Chadha offers a primer on what made Springsteen’s music groundbreaking while also allowing The Boss to stand in for any beloved teenage musical passion; she fills Javed’s school with students who are equally obsessed with Wham!
Chadha also punctuates Blinded By The Light’s unbridled joy with realistic depictions of racism, which are all the more upsetting because of how commonplace they clearly are for Luton’s Pakistani community.
Chadha walks a fine line between maintaining the film’s feel-good tone and acknowledging that systemic racism isn’t something that can simply be overcome with an earnestly delivered Springsteen lyric.
Still, anchored by an endlessly endearing lead performance from Kalra and the steady hand of a filmmaker operating at her ideal wavelength (this is Chadha’s strongest film since Bend It Like Beckham), Blinded By The Light is such a joyful ride that it’s hard to quibble with its flaws.