Image: Viveik Kalra in Blinded by the Light © Photograph by Nick Wall. Property of Warner Bros. Inc. [Source: IMDB]
In 1987, during the austere days of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family, and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen.
Director: Gurinder Chadha. Starring: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman, Nell Williams, Rob Brydon [12A]
Coming from the director of such a cultural milestone that is Bend it Like Beckham. The name alone familiar to those who have seen it and those who have not. You’d have expected a film more in touch with society at the moment or at least carrying themes that seem to cut straight to the heart of cultural zeitgeist rather than an over politicised and ham-fisted one at that, coming of age story.
Technically the film is nothing to note of, but neither is it bad enough to demerit. I did find that some of the production value was supremely well done and captured this drab and grey tone to that decade of Britain and the politicised environment that it was. Colour palette alone I’d wager you could guess the decade that it is set in and that is a real achievement. The performances were also excellent, seemingly a lot of screen newcomers that really sit easily on-screen and as these characters. Especially the two male leads here, the father and son who really capture a terrific and engaging tension that connects with the audience, which ultimately saves this film by anchoring the emotional weight of the story which does get lost along the way in the plot.
Which is most evident around the middle section of the film starting with when the main character discovers Springsteen’s music for the first time. The film takes a major tonal shift that most audiences I believe will be too jarring to sit well. It certainly did not sit easy for me, coming across as a middle ground between the fairly grounded drama preceding it and the over flair campy coming of age gimmicks it uses to express the moment of connecting with music. Personally, I believe that there were far greater ways to weave Springsteen’s music into the revelation that the young boy has rather than having awkward scenes with words popping up around the actor shambling about looking out of place. It sadly gives these moments far too much of a out of touch mood. Instead of core cutting connective narrative. We’ve all probably fallen utterly in love with a particular song, maybe you were even wandering the streets at night while you did but I doubt anyone has rolled around on a wall looking like the song was being beamed into their brain from space.
Worse still is while the film shows us just how changed this character was by Springsteen’s music using these overly camp moments that directly challenge the gritty reality it is set it. It further expands the chasm between these two different worlds by having these ham-fisted moments of politicising the story in a somewhat successful attempt to connect it to modern-day audiences. But it never really feels relevant or poignant. In this, the narrative and the themes the coming of age story wants to explore and should explore get lost, stumbling through to then emerge in an overwhelmingly average tale that is only saved by the chemistry of the father and son driving home the emotional weight of the story in the films rather over the top climax.