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Blinded by the Light

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Blinded by the Light

Blinded By the Light opens in the 1980s and introduces us to Jared (Viveik Kalra), a young man who tells us “I’ve spent 35 years trying to let go of the destructive parts of my character.” Watching him show us those decades is pure pleasure. There are no weak parts of this boy’s character, but he is born to a kindly mother and a tough, uncompromising father (Kulvinder Ghir) who tries to determine every detail of his son’s life.

As an immigrant from Pakistan, the father settled his family in Luton, England, a small town with a poor, sometimes violent culture. From his Pakistani culture, he brought with him a father’s total power over his children. This man orders his teenage son to prepare himself for law school or any other acceptable route to success and power. But Jared already knows who he is; he is a writer. As the film shows us the power of fathers in the Pakistani culture, we settle in to watch Jared find the strength to become himself. You will love the process. Watching him grow is pure pleasure.

When a friend gives him a Bruce Springsteen tape, time passes before he listens to it but when he does, we watch the boy as he is captured. Both the words and the music soak him with the joy of searching which is exactly where he is and what he needs. The young writer who is excited about leaving his old life is on fire.

We watch Jared as he absorbs the encouragement of the Springsteen lyrics and responds to the music itself. With his new confidence, he stands up to his father and continues on his much loved path of writing music. This whole process rests on actor Viveik Kalra’s shoulders as he does a masterful job of creating Jared – never under or overacted, simply a human being who suddenly develops new confidence in his own dreams. We quickly join his team and we stay there.

One of those dreams is to visit New Jersey to see Springsteen’s house. When Jared manages to get there, we see that his visit reinforces his own progress in a wonderful way. He has broken his father’s harsh plan for his future and is following his own dream. His friendship with Roops (Aaron Phagura) who had given him the first tape is fun and mutually supportive. His relationship with Eliza (Nell Williams) is great fun to watch as the shy boy gains his own confidence.

You are not likely to ever again hear Springsteen’s music without thinking of Jared’s story. It gave him permission to become himself and who he is happens to be a kind, bright aspiring poet set free from all restrictions. Don’t look for things not to like. Just jump on board with a talented young actor creating a character who wins us all. Actor Viveik Kalra is here for a long run.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Blinded By the Light
Word Count : 493
Running Time : 1:58
Rating : PG-13
Date : 25 August 2019

The Farewell

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The Farewell

The Farewell is a grand mixture of cultures, a deeply caring family, and a group of fine actors who are introduced quickly and with clarity. Writer/Director Lulu Wang first sketches the characters who will merge as the family gathers in China for the approaching death of their family’s grandmother. Thirty-one year old Billi (Awkwafina) is a young Chinese woman living in New York with a stalled writing career. In China, her grandmother Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhou) has undergone tests for a nagging cough that won’t go away under prescribed medicine.

When the family gathers in support in China, Billi flies in from the U.S. and watches with disapproval and disappointment as the family agrees not to tell the grandmother the truth of her illness. Instead, they surround her with a forged clean bill of health and the pretense of a family wedding as the reason for the family gathering. The culture Billi has acquired in New York doesn’t sit well with the rest of her family but she obeys their command with reluctance. She feels it is dishonest not to tell her grandmother the truth.

The family keeps the secret of Nai Nai’s cancer as it gathers for the pretend wedding of cousins Had Hao and Han Chen. It is here that the cultural differences begin to rise. All but Billi have a deep belief in the Chinese cultural dictum that bad reality should be kept from any potential victim as a way of injecting peacefulness into the last remaining time on earth. They give Nai Nai medicine they refer to as “vitamins.”

They use her birthday and the grandson’s upcoming wedding to cover the cancer diagnosis. He is a quiet, apparently reluctant groom who comes alive only toward movie’s end. Twenty-five years have passed since this family was together and here they are for the wedding that Is simply a piece of the family plot.

Much of the attendant culture comes out in conversation between Billi and her father. When Billi wants so much to say goodbye to the grandmother she loves, he delivers the Chinese philosophy as he breaks down in tears: “why would you want her to go through that?”

As all this unfolds in the hands of the fine writer/director Lulu Wang and a strong, gentle cast caught in two cultures, we develop deep respect for everyone in this loving family. We sink with sadness into what has been silently wrought by the cultural separation of the families in two countries.

We are told that this is the difference between East and West, that the family is carrying the emotional burden of her dying so she doesn’t have to. The film fills us with the Chinese interpretation of what it means to be family. When Billi finally joins in their beliefs we watch her gradual acceptance of her heritage. This is all about different versions of family love handed beautifully to us by a grand cast.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : The Farewell
Word Count : 496
Running Time : 1:40
Rating : PG
Date : 4 August 2019

This entry was posted on August 4, 2019, in Comedy, Drama.