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Review: 'Blinded by the Light' an uplifting tribute to Springsteen

The music of Bruce Springsteen helps a teenager find himself in Gurinder Chadha's spirited coming-of-age story

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Javed is a Pakistani-British teen living in Luton, England who just wants to fit in and kiss a girl before hightailing it out of town and never looking back. 

"Blinded by the Light" is the big-hearted tale of how music — specifically, the songs of New Jersey working class rocker Bruce Springsteen — allowed and empowered him to do so.  

Viveik Kalra in "Blinded by the Light."

Viveik Kalra plays Javed. It's September 1987, and the Pet Shop Boys and Tiffany are in. But when Javed's classmate introduces him to the music of Springsteen, Javed's world is transformed. Suddenly he sees a way out, just like Springsteen found a way out of his New Jersey town. Springsteen gives him hope.  

"Bend it Like Beckham" director Gurinder Chadha frames "Blinded by the Light" as a tribute to the power of music, and the way words and lyrics can burrow into our brains and our souls. Springsteen's words flash across the screen as Javed escapes into the world inside his headphones. The street poetry of the Boss becomes his fuel. 

And what does a kid from Pakistan have in common with Springsteen? A lot, it turns out. Springsteen's questioning of authority, his struggles with his father, his belief in hopes and dreams and his yearning to become something bigger than his small town all hit Javed square in his heart. Springsteen, it turns out, is universal. 

A lesser film would have put more focus on Bruce himself, but Chadha wisely makes "Blinded by the Light" Javed's story. (The film is based on the memoir by Springsteen superfan Sarfraz Manzoor.) 

And Javed's story, in a sense, is Springsteen's story. The details are different but the sentiment is the same: even in the darkness at the edge of town, there's always a light.

'Blinded by the Light'


Rated PG-13: for thematic material and language including some ethnic slurs

Running time: 118 minutes