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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Blinded by the Light is a feel-good, fact-based comedy about a Pakistani teenager (Viveik Kalra) growing up in 1980s England whose life is transformed by the music of Bruce Springsteen. Directed by Bend It Like Beckham's Gurinder Chadha, it shares themes with that crowd-pleasing hit: the conflict between tradition and following your dreams, the tension between parents and teens, the power of an all-consuming obsession, and the importance of empathy. Mature content is mostly in the form of strong language ("s--t," "bloody," "wanker," ethnic slurs, etc.), kissing/innuendo, and racist bullying and violence. A Pakistani character is pushed down and injured by white nationalists, there's a hate crime at a local mosque, and characters feel threatened because of their race. Characters also argue, and some smoke cigarettes in the background. Ultimately, the movie is about working hard and overcoming obstacles to achieve your goals while learning to appreciate the sacrifices others make on your behalf.
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What's the story?
In BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, it's 1987, and teenage Javed (Viveik Kalra) dreams of finding out what life is like beyond the city limits of Luton, England, where he's lived all his life with his tradition-bound Pakistani parents. Javed loves writing -- especially poetry -- and he studies it on the sly at college, where he's encouraged by earnest teacher Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell). But Javed's father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), is determined for his son to pursue a "real" job. The teen chafes at his restrictive life -- and then one day his friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen. Suddenly and powerfully, Javed feels seen. He hears his frustrations and longings echoed in The Boss's lyrics, which helps give him the resolve to stand up for himself and fight for his dreams. But will Malik see the light? The movie is based on Sarfraz Manzoor's memoir Greetings from Bury Park.
Is it any good?
This infectiously charming comedy will leave you humming Springsteen tunes for days -- and cheering when its earnest main character starts living the life he really wants. Director Gurinder Chadha previously tackled the tensions between tradition and personal fulfillment in the delightful Bend It Like Beckham, and it's clear that the topic is one that resonates with her. Just as that film's main character, Jess, had to convince her traditional Indian parents that she could play soccer and be a good daughter -- while also learning to value the very traditions she struggled with -- so does Javed have to negotiate the difficult balance between fighting for his dreams and respecting the sacrifices his Pakistani parents have made.
Along the way, Javed listens to a lot of Springsteen -- leading to moments both emotional (when Javed rages during a storm while listening to "The Promised Land") and joyous (when Javed and his friends take over the college radio station and then run gleefully around town singing along to "Born to Run"). Anyone who's ever discovered an artist whose music/work spoke to them in a way that truly made them feel understood and seen will relate to Javed's passion for The Boss. And anyone who's ever taken a chance on a dream will applaud when he finds the courage to stand up for what he wants.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the conflict between Javed and his father in Blinded by the Light. Why do they disagree with each other? Is tradition more important than following your passion?
How does the movie portray Pakistani parenting and families vs. English parenting and families? What point do you think it's trying to make?
How do Javed and his father learn to empathize with each other? Why can it be hard to see things from someone else's point of view?
It doesn't always seem as though Javed is going to stick with his dreams of becoming a writer. What convinces him to persevere?
Have you ever felt about a particular musician (or writer or other artist) the way that Springsteen makes Javed feel? Why do you think the songs have such a powerful effect on him?
- In theaters: August 16, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: November 19, 2019
- Cast: Viveik Kalra, Nell Williams, Kulvinder Ghir
- Director: Gurinder Chadha
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material and language including some ethnic slurs
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: April 15, 2020
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