Is Blinded By The Light Worth Seeing?

Written by Sarah W.

Gurinder Chadha’s Sundance darling Blinded by the Light is a film that succeeds emotionally where it lacks technically. Often hitting a little close to home with the teenage cringe, it’s been polarizing to many, who claim it’s hard to watch. Set in Thatcher-era London, the film follows a British-Pakistani teen who discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

In a recent boom of well-crafted coming-of age titles, Blinded by the Light is pushed aside by the increasing offering of indies, especially those from cult-favorite distributor A24, that have grabbed the attention of the young cinephiles many of these films are marketed to. In a wave of so-called ‘auteur’ coming-of-age, it’s rare to see one that’s main strength is its earnestness

With an incredibly fuzzy storyline, and acting that at times becomes weak, the film makes up for itself with exuberant musical numbers set to Springsteen’s greatest hits. Our protagonist, Javed, is a romanticized version of a man named Sarfraz Manzoor, whose memoir is the basis for the screenplay. He ignores the culture around him, avoiding the chance to latch onto closer positive role models in the pressingly conservative culture of the time and place, instead holding on to this idea of an All American role model.

What makes the film hit so close to home for so many is the idea of giving your entire heart to something that’s decidedly uncool. Many Twitter users have turned the film’s premise into a meme, tweeting “Blinded by the Light but it’s about [blank]”. They fill in the blanks with their own past discoveries, whether it be a major icon from the past century, or, as an almost equal number have responded, screamo from the mid-aughts that took much of a generation by storm.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

So many have called the film cringey and unwatchable because they hate to be reminded that they, too, gave their all to something they now find embarrassing. When a friend of Javed’s hands him two Springsteen cassettes, and says that the music is "the key to all that is true in this shitty world,'' so many have felt the same way in their own adolescence, but are embarrassed to have been so enthralled by something that seems so trivial. Much in the way last year’s Eighth Grade recalls memories of middle school we’d rather forget, Blinded by the Light recalls deeply buried memories of teenage obsession.

Excusing a film for how it makes us feel does not excuse its technical flaws. The film is still rambling and shallow in how it discusses race; and the over-quoting of Springsteen lyrics starts to feel self indulgent. Often falling into cliches at times, the film doesn’t exactly do anything radical, but is especially welcome for its representation. It may not be the best release of the year to prominently feature Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run (that title belongs to Wild Rose), but the film’s heart makes it worth the time.

Sarah W.