By Jess Fenton
10th June 2019

It becomes increasing clearer to me with each new music-based film release that my opinion differs greatly to the populous (Yes, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, I’m looking at you). My heart breaks with each review of the weekly box office takings when I see how the public are choosing to spend their time and their money, and I fear it’s about to happen again with ‘Blinded By The Light’.

While not her first film, Indian/British filmmaker Gurinda Chada became a beloved household name in 2002 with the smash hit ‘Bend It Like Beckham’. While her followup films (‘Bride & Prejudice’, ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Afterlife’ and ‘Viceroy’s House’) also enjoyed great success, none quite matched the love and enthusiasm of ‘Beckham’. When an audience adores a film, it becomes (annoyingly) commonplace to start demanding a sequel. While fans may never get their ‘Beckham’ follow-up (it’s been 17 years people, let it go), ‘Blinded By The Light’ will probably be the closest they'll ever come to it.


It’s 1987 England - Luton, to be exact, about an hour outside of London. The Iron Lady is in power, which means layoffs are rife. Unemployment lines are getting longer, and the masses are getting angrier. Naturally that anger gets channeled (wrongly) towards immigrants, and in this case the increasing Pakistani and Muslim population. That’s where we find Javed (newcomer Viveik Kalra). Growing up British in a Pakistani family, he’s constantly told he doesn’t belong on either side. He lets out his thoughts and frustrations in his journals and poetry, displaying a gift for the written word - a talent he has to keep secret from his strict Pakistani father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir, ‘Bend It Like Beckham’). When friend and fellow Muslim Roops (Aaron Phagura) introduces Javed to Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen, his world is changed forever and the obsession begins. He never knew music could be like this, and those lyrics - a white American who can convey what it feels like to be a Pakistani teenager in England? Crazy! Suddenly Javed’s own voice grows stronger and clearer and he knows what he wants out of life - if only it didn’t go against his culture and everything his father wants for him.

‘Born To Run’ is a great song. An awesome song. A goddamn classic! I just don’t need to hear it four times in the space of an hour.

I never thought I’d say this... ever, but there’s too much Springsteen music in this film. ‘Born To Run’ is a great song. An awesome song. A goddamn classic! I just don’t need to hear it four times in the space of an hour. I already did that 20 years ago when I “discovered” it myself. When Javed isn’t listening to Springsteen he’s quoting him, and when he’s not doing it other characters are. Its exhausting, leaving little room for humour or relief from Javed’s oppressive life. Too many of the supporting characters are undercooked as well, or I’m still wondering why they were there at all. Many serve little to no purpose like the bestie Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman, TV’s ‘Game of Thrones’), the wise old neighbour who for some reason is presented as a possible racist, the two sisters - one of whom disappears before you get a chance to realise who she even is - and the bestie’s dad (a grand waste of Rob Brydon).

Now we come to the big one - ‘Blinded By the Light’ is essentially ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ Mach 2. There are so many similarities that you simply can’t dismiss them. So you just have to ask - why? Why repeat yourself? I get it, this one is a true story, but it needed a different eye. I appreciated Chadha’s dedication to the use of the music and lyrics using GUI to display key text, however the main sequence featuring ‘Dancing In the Dark’ looked like an 80s music video... made by a high school arts student. Walking around in a wind storm while lyrics are projected against a wall - really?

Perhaps it was the “I feel like I’ve seen this before” factor, but ‘Blinded By The Light’ just didn’t resonate. It lacked the humour, the heart and the finesse of Chadha’s previous films, and therefore it falls short.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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