“Blinded by the Light” is an uplifting, heartwarming coming-of-age story that is occasionally blinded by its own big heart but is still sweet and affecting. Set in the 1980s, it is the story of a British young man, Javed, facing racism against his Pakistani family in a small town. His story is told through the lens of his love for the music of Bruce Springsteen.
So, yes, it is a little cheesy. There are scenes that amount to music videos, with young people running through the streets singing Springsteen songs, and the story arc of familial strife is resolved too neatly. But on the plus side, it is safe to watch with quarantined family members of assorted ages and that is no small thing. It is inoffensive, and although young kids would not be interested in it, you can watch it around them without scarring them.
As an almost musical surrounding one iconic musician, “Blinded by the Light” begs comparison to “Yesterday,” the Beatles movie. That was a crazy fantasy beset by logistical problems, while this movie is based on the true story of a first-generation British immigrant and how his love of Springsteen’s music helped him grow to understand his place in the world. Like Javed in this film, screenwriter Sarfraz Manzoor found his voice as a journalist in part because of the voice that Springsteen gave to working-class people and their struggles. He wrote this film from his memoir.
As the clashes between white supremacists and immigrants grows more harrowing, Javed’s clash with his parents grows more dire as well. His ambitions to be a writer, nurtured by his teacher (Hayley Atwell) lead him to opportunities his father decries, while his father is laid off from the factory job he has held for decades. A kindly neighbor, a childhood friend and a romantic interest all contribute to Javed’s story.
Javed himself, played by Viveik Kalra, is an utterly winning young man, and he fully commits to even the most clichéd moments, inevitably delivering a speech at school that completely sums up his emotional evolution and is, of course, witnessed by every relevant character. A swift and satisfying conclusion follows.
“Blinded by the Light” is one of the films available on the HBO Now free trial that they just released to comfort/lure us in our confinement. It is not the most artistically challenging, thematically risky or otherwise life-changing cinematic event, but it is sweet and assured, and the musical element adds to the well-told tale. Whether you are a Springsteen fan or not, it is more about that youthful infatuation with music itself, when you feel someone is singing directly through your Walkman into your heart.
“Blinded by the Light” is currently available to rent and to stream on HBO Now.
If you prefer a nice Agatha Christie mystery, you may have seen the Amazon Prime original “The Pale Horse” advertised. In the absence of new theatrical releases, streaming obviously has tightened its hold even more. This is one change that was creeping up that this pandemic has hastened; after this, will our cocooning remain? At any rate, hole up with the nattily dressed Rufus Sewell as Mark Easterbrook, an antiques dealer in London in the ’60s, whose tragic personal relationships may or may not be shaped by a scary coven of witches in a nearby village.
Sewell’s face is handsome but sinister, and he ably carries this stylish thriller, which has more of the occult than the usual Christie fare. Bertie Carvel — an English character actor who was in the BBC miniseries of the novel “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” which are both wonderful and now you have time to read/watch them (if you ever get to the end of this sentence) — is a marvelous and mysterious addition to the cast. After the sudden death of his first wife, Easterbrook rushed into marriage with a close friend, and they now enjoy a cold, “Mad Men”-esque marriage that is, to put it mildly, frustrating to his young wife. Her outbursts are some of the best moments in this two-part film.
Easterbrook hides his personal pain behind a mask of callow indifference and womanizing, but when one of his conquests dies in bed beside him, her hair chillingly coming out in his hand, his equanimity is disturbed. He soon becomes aware that he is on a mysterious list of names found on the dead body of another woman. People’s hair falling out is easily the scariest part of this film; it’s absolutely horrifying. Hounded by the police, Easterbrook tries to find out what this list means for him, as a terrible fate befalls more and more of the names.
“The Pale Horse” was just scary and complicated enough for my taste — stylish, creepy and inexplicable. An interesting setting enhances the atmosphere, and it grips your attention without giving you bad dreams, or rather, worse ones than you’re probably already having.
“The Pale Horse” is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.
New This Week:
“Trolls World Tour”: Poppy and Branch discover that there are six different troll tribes scattered around six different lands, each representing a different musical style. When leaders of one genre set out to destroy the others our heroes set out to save diverse melodies from becoming extinct. Streaming on Video on Demand (VOD).
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