Movie News & Reviews

‘Blinded by the Light’ is a tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s music – and so much more

"Blinded by the Light" is where the Jersey Shore meets the British countryside, all to a soundtrack by Bruce Springsteen.

The new film provides a window into the world of an English teen of Pakistani descent as he struggles to follow his dream of becoming a writer ? with inspiration provided by lyrics from the Boss. Springsteen's messages of struggle, hope and redemption in songs like "The River" and "Born To Run" speak to the youth as he grapples with racism in 1987 and a traditional father who pushes him to pursue a more practical career.

"He's somebody who talks about the things that actually matter in life," said journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, whose 2007 memoir "Greetings from Bury Park" inspired the movie.

"It doesn't matter where you live, which country or what decade, there's probably a chance that you're not living the life you want in the town you grew up in," he told the Daily News. "There's probably a chance that you and your dad don't get on. There's probably a chance that you got a good friend, and friendship means something to you and your mate."

In the movie, which will be released Friday, Viveik Kalra stars as Javed – a character based on Manzoor.

Javed, who lives in the English town of Luton, is reluctant to share his poems with the world until a classmate introduces him to Springsteen's body of work. The words to songs like "Dancing in the Dark" and "Badlands" illustrate Javed's struggle while motivating him to strive for better.

The New Jersey-born Springsteen allowed the filmmakers to use 19 of his songs at a discounted rate.

"We just made a little indie film, and ... it's sort of an amazing way to think about (Springsteen) because his words and his music is incredibly valuable, but I think he must have seen something," Kalra, 21, told The News. "Our story has a lot of heart to it, and a lot of soul, and comes from a deeper place than anything sort of surface level."

Manzoor, 48, remains a massive Springsteen fan and has seen the Boss in concert more than 150 times.

While making the movie, Manzoor sent the script to Springsteen, who didn't recommend a single change. Director Gurinder Chadha eventually showed Springsteen the film last summer, sitting behind the rocker as he watched.

"At the end of the movie, there was absolute silence," Chadha, 59, told The News. "He didn't say anything. ... Just as I was going to get my tape, Bruce walked over to me and he put his arms around me and he gave me a big kiss and he said, 'Wow, thank you for looking after me so beautifully.'"

For all the uplifting parts of the movie, there are also moments of darkness. Scenes involving the far-right National Front marching and fomenting violence serve as a reminder of the intolerance that existed.

"When I was growing up, I had the obstacle of my parents, as in they didn't think I could do anything interesting because they didn't know anybody who was," Manzoor said. "But then you also had an obstacle that people were judging you for things that weren't in your control.

"I can't control the color of my skin. I can't control the religion I was born in. I can't control my name, and yet those things are going to prevent me from becoming the person I want to become."

Those involved with the movie believe the world's current social climate make "Blinded by the Light" feel especially relevant. The Brexit movement in England really made Chadha want to make the film.

"Brexit happened, and I was so upset with all the xenophobia that I saw around me at that time," she recalled. "I said, 'I've got to do something about this. I've got to present a different version of the world as I see it.'"

The movie also highlights an important lesson about family through Javed's disagreements with his dad, echoing the young Springsteen's head-butting with his father Douglas.

"(The message is) to respect and love people that you have differences with and find a way to communicate and navigate those relationships in a way that doesn't cut those people off from your life," Kalra explained. "Because often they want the best for you."

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