Capsule Review – Blinded by the Light (Sydney Film Fest 2019)

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British director Gurinder Chadha is back in top form for her latest feel-good hit, Blinded by the Light, which is her best film since 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham as well as the best musically-focused film since John Carney‘s brilliant, yet sorely underseen Sing Street.

One of the reasons why it worked on me so well is the portrayal of Javed’s family. Many scenes involving the family are so relatable, that it makes it easily for the audience to be involved into the film, especially audiences of Asian origin. Little details like how the mother is a seamstress, how the father gets his hair dyed, how every member of the family has to contribute their earnings to the father; there is a sense of verisimilitude that gives a certain punch to the humour as well as the storytelling. Speaking of verisimilitude, the story also deals with racism, culture clashes, the power of music that makes the period-set story feel surprisingly contemporary.

The cast absolutely give their all to their characters, lending heart and charm to their performances. Viveik Kalra is engaging and easy to root for as the lead, Javed; Nell Williams is vivacious as Eliza, Javed’s love interest; Aaron Phagura is instantly likable as Javed’s Pakistani friend, Roops; Dean-Charles Chapman is hilariously sleazy as Javed’s best friend, Matt; and the supporting adult performances by Meera Ganatra, Hayley Atwell, Sally Philips and especially Rob Brydon (who’s an absolute hoot) all hit their mark. But the real standout is Kulvinder Ghir, as Javed’s father. Ghir gives a fantastic performance that conveys authoritative presence along with his humourous politically incorrect leanings and a deep-seated sense of regret that is quite poignant.

Apart from the flaw of showing the lyrics of Springsteen’s songs on-screen — which undercuts the drama — the expected problems for a story of this nature; being its predictability of its story, the overlong running time and the overly sincere feel that will turn off cynics. But that last factor is also its greatest strength and thanks to Chadha’s spirited direction, the wonderful performances of the cast, Blinded by the Light is a crowdpleaser of the highest order.


 

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