A MUSICAL set in the Eighties about a Muslim boy obsessed with Bruce Springsteen should be absolute bobbins.
But against the odds and by sheer feelgood force, it is Boss (ahem).
In the eyes of his relentlessly strict father, teenager Javed (Viveik Kalra) is expected to be gearing up for a future as a doctor, accountant or estate agent.
However, his sensitive and poetic nature nags away, with the eureka moment arriving after pal Roops chucks him a couple of Springsteen albums for the Walkman.
Encouraged by his teacher (Hayley Atwell) and girlfriend (Nell Williams), Javed begins to flex his creative muscle despite opposition from his father and under the shadow of the National Front.
As with most “recent” period films (from the Seventies onwards), it does feel the need to over-egg the omelette and date-stamp everything.
BRUCES SONGS FIT THE MOOD
Every TV, speaker or item of clothing goes to great lengths to scream “we are in the Eighties”, whether it be A-ha blaring from a car window, or Game Of Thrones’ Dean- Charles Chapman being made up like A Flock Of Duran Kershaw.
Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle lead stars at glamorous T2 Trainspotting premiere
Also, “It’s there, just next to the Cutting Crew calendar” is a line no human has ever uttered in real life.
I had wondered if the music would cloy.
Speaking as someone who left this summer’s film Yesterday never wishing to hear another Beatles song again, I was pleasantly surprised at a) How well Bruce’s songs fitted the mood (Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha really knows how to piece together a story) and b) How many of them I knew.
Despite being a musical, there is no “re-imagining of the hits” going on.
Most of the songs are either used to soundtrack a scene or with Javed singing along with Bruce, as we all have at some point in our lives.
Kalra does a great, if somewhat over-earnest perforce as Javed but full marks have to go to Kulvinder Ghir as Malik, Javed’s father.
He is terrified of admitting his own failings and scared of the brave new liberal dawn his children are being drawn to.
There are some great cameos from the likes of Rob Brydon and Sally Phillips, but special mention goes to Marcus Brigstocke, whose brief appearance showed a knack of timing the film needed more of.
The film’s fluffier and whimsical elements occasionally feel out of place.
It’s when Chadha offers a glimpse of Muslim tradition (the schoolkids’ Daytimer event being a highlight) or the depressing acceptance of racism that we really start to get to the meat of the film, and understand the universal language of finding our own feet, even if it is via a gravelly-voiced fella in Levis.
This film wasn’t high on my “must-see in 2019” list. But you know what? Its relentless optimism and charming delivery may have given us the Brit flick of the year.
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT (12A) 117mins