4 out of 5 stars
The angst caused by the transition from high school to adulthood is an emotion that everyone can say they experience at one point in life. Each person’s story can vary based on circumstances, family and the era that it occurs. This film was inspired by Sarfraz Manzoor's book, Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll. His journey of growing up in Luton, England in the 1980s as a Pakistani immigrant and a Bruce Springsteen fan. His personal account caught the imagination of director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham). She tells Manzoor's account as Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra), his family and the salvation the young man found in the music of The Boss to cinemas around the world.
The year was 1987 and Javed had begun at a new school with the hopes of qualifying for university. Being one of the only immigrant students at the school, it started as a lonely existence. The two places that he managed to find comfort in was his literature class taught by Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) and in the music of Springsteen. The latter had been introduced to him by Roops (Aaron Phagura), his fellow classmate who found that the music provided him with a soundtrack to the plight of the immigrant experience in Luton. While the writing class was a passion for this aspiring writer, his father did not approve of him doing anything besides economics or law.
As he grows in his confidence and skills in writing, Javed invests more time listening to his musical mentor by himself and the lyrics of the iconic musician from New Jersey. This young immigrant begins to find his own voice and builds up his nerve to have it heard through his writing. The tensions at home and the racist atmosphere of Britain in that era tried to keep him down, but when his work is entered in a national writing contest, everything changes.
The challenges of high school and racism have been told before, but Manzoor has managed to give this storyline a fresh spin. Even though Bruce Springsteen’s music does not have the same reach of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, his look and sound do convey a message of hope for the battler. This film proves that the raw, blue-collar lyrics manage to transcend national boundaries and can resonate with anyone willing to give them a listen.
This journey is complemented by Gurinder Chadha's vision, a director who always manages to capture the heart of the migrant. Masterfully weaving together the bittersweet combination of the hope of the immigrant with the racism that many people experience. Then she still delivers the lighthearted nature of the script that will inspire audiences to care for others and potentially become fans of Bruce.
Each member of the cast is perfectly cast to depict the situations, the era and provide the support needed for the strong performance from Viveik Kalra. A role that captures the transition from innocence to the realities of life while not losing sight of his dreams and aspirations. From the darkest moments to the musical interludes, each component and character of the film make for a winning combination of great music and an inspiring coming-of-age tale.
REEL DIALOGUE: Do we have to sacrifice our family for the sake of our dreams?
Our families bring out the best and worst in our lives. Parents, siblings and our extended family members may know more about our history than we want to remember. They can remind us of our successes and our failures throughout our lives. This is the gift and challenge of the family unit.
Interestingly, the God of the Bible had the best of intentions for families from the beginning of time. The purpose was to be a cohesive unit that works together and celebrates the various gifts that each of us are given. Even in this fallen existence, family members should strive to encourage one another. Weeping with those when they weep, celebrating when they are celebrating and speaking the truth into their lives with grace, love and mercy.
The reality of life is that some family lives are better than others and it takes work to love your family day in and day out. We should strive to love our fellow humans, but especially our blood relations. God does care about your dreams and aspirations, but they should not cause you to sacrifice your relationship with those closest to you. These goals should complement these connections, making the journey even richer because you are doing it with those you cherish most.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" John 13:34-35