Combustible Celluloid
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With: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman, Nikita Mehta, Nell Williams, Tara Divina, Rob Brydon, Frankie Fox, Hayley Atwell, Sally Phillips
Written by: Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Sarfraz Manzoor, based on a memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor
Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and language including some ethnic slurs
Running Time: 117
Date: 08/15/2019

Blinded by the Light (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bruce Change

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Gurinder Chadha returns to feel-good Bend It Like Beckham territory, but with a tinge of darkness, an acknowledgment that things are still pretty dark and awful out there. But we can still hope, and work toward goodness.

Blinded by the Light is based on a memoir by Pakistani journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who, was packed up and moved to England, some distance from London, where he endured racism in public and unyielding restrictions of his father at home. In the movie, he's represented by the fictitious Javed (Viveik Kalra). It's 1987, with Margaret Thatcher in charge, and Javed's teenage dreams of being a writer are in peril. That is, until a friend turns him onto the music of Bruce Springsteen. It hits him like a religion, with lyrics flying all over the screen and running across town to the tune of "Born to Run." It's often exhilarating, but the movie wisely acknowledges that being a fan is one thing, but doing something with one's life is another.

The movie is sometimes simplistic and cheeseball, and certainly the heavy fictionalization of what was once a true story can feel a little cheap, but Chadha's frequent winning touches convey a passion that rises above cliché, and laughs despair in the face. Kulvinder Ghir plays the strict father with a fine hint of vulnerability, and with Hayley Atwell as an encouraging teacher, and Rob Brydon as Javed's friend's hilariously loose father. Stick around for the end credits to hear a new-ish Springsteen song, "I'll Stand by You Always," which was recorded for, and rejected from, a Harry Potter movie, and is now officially released.

The Blu-ray release from Warner Bros. comes with a bonus digital copy. The picture seems deliberately subdued, but pinpoints of color pop nicely nonetheless. Sound is excellent, and those Springsteen songs really blast. The disc only comes with two short featurettes (about 6 minutes each); it's too bad because a commentary track by Chadha and Manzoor would have been really interesting. We also get nearly 10 minutes of deleted/extended scenes, and various trailers at startup.

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