What Gurinder Chadha’s ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ did for football, her effervescent latest does for Springsteen. And Sony Walkmans. And double denim. For viewers of a certain age – if you ever owned a Level 42 cassette, that’s you – there’s loads of easy ’80s nostalgia to feast on. ‘Blinded by the Light’ is about connecting with music in a way that finds you a tribe and respite from your worries – even when they’re as grave as the racist thug stalking you across your estate.
It’s set in Luton at the mass-unemployment- and National Front-stained end of Thatcher’s ’80s, but Chadha gives it a sparky American-high-school-movie sheen and a Bruce-heavy soundtrack to banish the minor-key moments. Its hero, Javed (Viveik Kalra), is a British-Pakistani teenager who writes poetry, dreams of escape and gets his spirits crushed daily by his ultra-strict dad. But when his new friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) chucks him a couple of Bruce Springsteen tapes, salvation arrives in the form of The Boss’s uncannily relatable blue-collar anthems. ‘Bruce knows everything I’ve ever felt,’ he marvels.
Based on a book by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor (who also co-writes), it’s peppered with the kind of loving details that can only be real. Javed’s sister chops onions in swimming goggles, while it takes the whole family to jump-start his dad’s old banger. His musical epiphany comes during the Great Storm of 1987, which has him spinning through the tempest, lost in The Boss’s tunes. With the lyrics pinwheeling across the screen, it captures the exhilarating eureka moment of discovery. Like the film, it’s a bit cheesy and extremely hard to resist.