It has never felt so clear to me that our country is trapped in a place we’re afraid we can’t get out of. America has felt more divided and hateful in these past three years than it ever has in the 21st century.

As a teenage growing up in this America, I too have felt the confinement of a community and country I often don’t feel I fit into. High school is hard, life is even harder, and I’ve continually thought I was the only person who felt they belonged somewhere else.

That is until I saw the newest film by Gurinder Chadha — director of the hit movie, “Bend It Like Beckham” — and realized I was far from being alone.

“Blinded By the Light” is a genuine depiction of the restraints that hold us back and the ambitions that push us ever forward. The story revolves around the life of Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra), a British-Pakistani teenager growing up in Luton, England, in 1987. This movie is actually inspired by the true story of Sarfraz Manzoor and his memoir, “Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll.”

Dreams denied

Javed has barely turned 16, is attending a new school where he is one of two South Asian students, and is trying to support his struggling immigrant family; his parents, Malik and Noor, and his two sisters, Yasmeen and Shazia.

One of this movie’s strongest points is Javed’s undeniable relatability and realism, having desires that actual people have but never share. He wants the courage to ask out a girl he likes; he imagines what it’d be like to spend the money he earned on what he wanted — his dad takes all of his earnings to support the family — and to pursue a career that he actually wants.

However, his father has other plans. He wants Javed to study economics and go after a job in business, while Javed is in love with English and dreams of becoming a writer. But, naturally, Javed doesn’t have a say in his life, his future, or the decisions that are made regarding either.

So he spends most of his time locked away in his bedroom. Javed writes poetry that his father disapproves of and that his childhood pal Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) regards as “too depressing” to use as song lyrics for his band.

In the early moments of the film, it becomes clear that, as much as Javed likes Matt, he’s often jealous of the freedom he has. Matt is an English teenager and isn’t expected to live up to the expectations Javed has as part of his family’s Pakistani culture.

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In addition to dealing with personal and family related issues, Javed is forced to deal daily with racism and various attacks on him and others, due to being a member of the Pakistani community in Luton. This is actually a major theme of the film and exposes us to what countless immigrants are ambushed with.

While dealing with all of this, Javed bumps into the other South Asian student at his school named Roops (Aaron Phagura). After talking and eating lunch together, Roops tells Javed about Bruce Springsteen and lets Javed borrow two of his Springsteen cassette tapes.

‘The Boss’ inspires

Afterward, however, Javed comes home to find that his dad has lost his factory job. This is due to the recession that has been worsening throughout the Margaret Thatcher premiership. This puts more pressure on Javed to bring money in and to work toward a job that garners a substantial income. He feels trapped, suppressed by factors he can’t control, and seriously considers giving up writing.

As Javed is throwing his poems away, he decides to put on one of Roops’s Springsteen tapes and nonchalantly pushes play. But, as soon as the music begins and Bruce’s voice is heard, Javed’s expression tells it all: “I never knew music could be like that . . . ”

During the rest of the film, we experience how Bruce Springsteen brings Javed out of his comfort zone, gives him the confidence he needs to continue writing, and altogether changes his perspective on what his life can be. However, what I loved most about this movie was its effort to show us both the good and the bad that comes as part of Javed’s new-found inspiration in Springsteen.

While watching this film, I was confused as to why they didn’t title it “Born to Run,” the classic Bruce Springsteen song that Javed idolizes. But, as the movie progressed, I realized why they chose the title that they did and appreciated the film all the more for it.

Even though we all have thoughts of escaping the town that “rips bones from your back,” and getting “out while we’re young,” there’s so much more in life to consider, appreciate and strive to retain, even if we really are “born to run.”

Look for hope

My favorite line from the film was Javed talking about an article he’d written, saying, “Bruce sings about not letting the hardness of the world stop you from letting the best of you slip away. My hope is to build a bridge to my ambitions, but not a wall between my family and me.”

I may have talked and thought about belonging somewhere else, about being afraid of what’s becoming of me and this country. But, I think that I — as well as many of us at times — became so obsessed with what I loved and longed for that I, like Javed, was “Blinded By the Light.” I missed the bigger picture and never truly realized just how far my family, my country and my own individual person have come.

We should strive toward that which we dream of, and we should look to those things that bring us encouragement, hope and understanding. But, we cannot allow ourselves to turn a blind eye to what’s happening right here and right now. Our families, our communities, our countries and our own beings are imperfect.

Yet, we can’t deny that where we come from will always be a part of us — no matter where we’re bound to run.

Siena Cummings is a junior at Fremont High School who loves old books and movies. Email her at

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