Entering recovery mode - broken screen

Someone gave me their old Macbook Air that has a broken screen. They want me to recover data from it and then I can keep it for my own use. I have hooked it up to an external monitor via Thunderbolt-VGA adapter and can get to the login screen. The user doesn’t remember their password so I need to either replace the screen or figure out how to get this thing to come up in recovery mode (option -r) so I can use terminal to reset the password. I am able to login to the guest account.

When I try to boot into recovery mode (holding down option - r while rebooting) nothing ever comes up on the external screen. Is there any special “trick” I can do from the guest account or something else I can try to get this thing to work?

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