Movie Review: Blinded by the Light

“Hey! What’s with these softball topics?” you might be asking.

It’s the holidays, Israel doesn’t have a government, everything in the world is happening so fast my head is spinning, and, to be honest, not a single panicky headline has affected my day-to-day life. What’s a girl to do but go to the movies?

Short review

It’s a sweet coming-of-age movie: a Pakistani teen in Luton (UK) is inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen to chase his dreams. It’s a universal story, but if you grew up in the 1980s, well, it’ll be a trip down memory lane (cassettes, LPs, music, and “fashion”).

Two Thumbs Up!


Long review

I wasn’t sure I wanted to see this movie, but it was the backstory for the making of the movie that drew me in. The movie is based on a memoir written by Sarfraz Manzoor called Greetings from Bury Park. Long story short: Bruce read the book, liked it, gave the green light to make the movie, and let them use his music for free.

In one interview, Sarfraz says that the movie works because of what the audience brings to their understanding of it. And that was exactly my experience with this film. My dad gave me the cassette of Born in the USA. I didn’t grow up in an industrial town, and I went to an extremely white high school where most people’s parents were doctors, lawyers, well-off somebody or others who had probably never heard the words “laid off” or “factory closing” in their lives. But Bruce’s lyrics were powerful and told familiar stories.

“My Hometown” always struck a chord with me.

A dad drives with his child through town saying “this is your hometown.” “Your hometown” isn’t a place, it’s a feeling of nostalgia, connection, who you are in the depth of your soul.

This was probably also the time I developed my warped sense of humor .

Seeing the movie in an Israeli theater was an interesting experience. In the movie, the main character’s father tells him to “follow the Jews! They are a successful people!” Laughs throughout the audience, of course. And when the main character confesses to liking the music of Bruce Springsteen, his father asks if Springsteen is a Jew. More laughs from the audience. I’m pretty sure most other audiences wouldn’t have picked up on those lines in quite the same way – it was an “only in Israel” moment.

Having gone to high school in the 1980s, seeing the clothes, set, music, and everything else, was fun. Here too, though, I brought my own experience to the film. I wasn’t a visible minority (immigrant Jew isn’t tattooed on my forehead), but watching a sixteen-year-old Pakistani with his turban-wearing Sikh friend in a mostly white high school in Thatcher’s UK with neo-Nazis marching through the neighborhood reminded me that I felt different from my peers in those days. My friends didn’t care, but I found out later I was shunned by the popular kids because of it. Luckily for me, I couldn’t have cared less because like the main character, I planned to get out as soon as possible.

The main character’s struggle against his father and all he represents is the main story. In one scene, we see that in this traditional household, all money earned is given to the father to help pay the bills. Later the father is laid off and everyone has to work harder. How will our main character spread his wings and fly if he is chained to the nest where every life choice is determined by his father? The details might be different, but it is a universal story of a younger generation in conflict with the traditions of an older generation.

You also have the question of where “home” is. For an older immigrant who remembers the old country, home might be there. But for a younger immigrant who knows no other place, home is here, but echoes of a home come from there. It’s doubly confusing if your neighbors tell you to “go home” when you thought you already were home.

This movie adds to the conversation about today’s political climate. Unfortunately, it reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun and history does repeat itself. And yet, if a Pakistani kid in Luton can be inspired by the songs of a white guy from New Jersey maybe, just maybe, we can also be reminded that in these kinds of universal stories we can find our humanity, learn from history, and make our little corners of the world better.

For me personally, I got a chance to remember my dad who introduced me to The Boss, remember with fondness my high school years, and happily know that my “Glory Days” were still ahead of me.