In The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjiani‘s life (standup comedian, Uber driver) is restricted by his Pakistani-born parents, who expect him to follow tradition by marrying a Pakistani woman. In Bohemian Rhapsody Rami Malek‘s “Freddie” Bulsara encounters disapproval from his Indian Parsi father. In Yesterday, Hamesh Pital‘s life as a struggling musician is partly complicated by a lack of understanding from his Indian-born parents.
And now Blinded By The Light, a family drama set in the racially divided town of Luton of 1987, in which the central conflict is between Viveik Kalra‘s Javed, a hurting British teen spelled by the music of Bruce Springsteen, and his stern Pakistani-born dad (Kulvinder Ghir).
In short, Blinded By The Light (Warner Bros, 8.16) is a familiar tale, but in form it’s something else — a musical coming-of-age drama in which Springsteen’s songs are experienced and occasionally performed in a kind of imaginary fashion, at times with the digital-software lyrics swirling around Javed, and at other times sung in traditional musical style a la Rocketman. The influence of director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) is big on exuberant feeling and inventive choreography.
It’s an approvable film for the most part, but the depictions of anti-Pakistani racism from local skinheads (Thatcherism was flying high back then) are on the concise and cursory side. And it didn’t have to end in a happily-ever-after way.
Having dealt with a brusque and disapproving father myself, I can say with authority that sometimes it takes a while for a toxic father-son relationship to heal. (My dad became a nicer, warmer person after he went into AA, but he could still be a dick.) Ghir’s character is a gruff asshole for 95% of the film, and then offers his son unqualified love and support during the last ten minutes. I didn’t need that, thanks.
I basically resent films that seem stubbornly devoted to the idea of a “happy ending” (and Blinded By The Light is really happy at the finish) rather than the way things often turn out in real life. But my overall reaction to Chadha’s film (which premiered at last January’s Sundance Film Festival) is basically thumbs-uppy, in part because I remember how important music was to me when I was a miserable 17 year-old…God, I would have died without it.