NEW YORK—Abundant charm and an insightful depiction of the ups and downs of both friendship and family life make “Blinded by the Light” (Warner Bros.) — writer-director Gurinder Chadha’s touching fact-based mix of drama and comedy — a winner.
Though it’s safest for grown-ups, the valuable lessons of the film qualify it as possibly acceptable for mature teens, despite some vulgarity in the script.
Amid political and racial tensions — the hardscrabble world of 1980s Luton, England, provides the movie’s setting — British Pakistani teen Javed (Viveik Kalra) aspires to be a poet. But he’s hemmed in by his overbearing father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), who wants him to pursue a more lucrative career.
Introduced, more or less accidentally, to the music of Bruce Springsteen by classmate Roops (Aaron Phagura), Javed finds a fresh source of inspiration in the Boss’ working-class anthems, which resonate with his own experiences.
Javed’s newfound enthusiasm is shared by Eliza (Nell Williams), the fellow student for whom he’s fallen. Yet Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman), Javed’s best friend since childhood — with whom his relationship has already become fraught — remains indifferent to the Bard of Asbury Park.
As Javed seeks to balance personal fulfillment and filial duty, he and Eliza pursue a romance that contradicts Malik’s stated intention to arrange a marriage for his son. Though a scene of them necking in Javed’s house while the rest of the family are away is left open-ended, the overall timbre of the movie would suggest that they don’t go much beyond kissing.
Fans of Margaret Thatcher, the late British prime minister, will be put off by the fact that Chadha’s script implicitly links her to the degraded behavior of the skinheads and neo-Nazis, young and old, who antagonize Javed and his friends. Under their guidance, one little boy makes a statement by urinating through the mail slot in the front door of one of Javed’s acquaintances.
Viewers will be confident that such unpleasantness will not prevail over the appealing characters who predominate in “Blinded by the Light” — and for whom they’ll find themselves enthusiastically rooting. By turns amusing and moving, this is a lively, well-made picture with a sunny disposition and a positive message about the enduring bond linking youngsters and their parents.
The film contains some mild sensuality, a scatological incident, at least one use of profanity, an ethnic stereotyping theme, and occasional crude and crass talk. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.