When dealing with such an iconic figure such as Jimi Hendrix, sometimes
the hardest thing about capturing the essence of a character, the
perspectives of a legend, and the workings of a man are the most
difficult points to show on screen. Jimi Hendrix is a name that pretty
well everyone knows, and a name that many will continue to remember for
many years to come. So how does one humanize, arguably, the greatest
guitar player who ever lived?
The film itself is an exercise in the practice of subtly and minute
brilliance. All Is By My Side is a rustic and antique look at the life
of a man; Johnny Allen Hendrix, a man who served the US army and was
honourably discharged; Jimmy James, the backing guitarist for the Isley
Brother's, Little Richard and Curtis Knight; finally Jimi Hendrixthe
Undoubtedly, first time director, veteran screenwriter and passionate
Hendrix fan John Ridley had a difficult time with the production.
Relying mostly on passion, Ridley focused on the small instances of
Hendrix's career, and navigates through the film with nuanced
characters and fragmented events in Hendrix's career.
Its admirable how Ridley, through a slew of obstacles, was still able
to delve deep into the world of Hendrix through extensive research.
Unable to attain the musical rights from the Hendrix estate, Ridley
opted for covers of Hendrix songs and songs Hendrix covered to fill the
somewhat hushed void of a musical autobiography. I won't lie in saying
that I was quite surprised to see an autobiographical film of one of
the loudest and most electric guitarist to be so quiet. The soundtrack
is definitely something I will not be rushing to get.
Although Ridley was unable to fill the musical gap of the film, he made
up for it visually and in his actors performances. Andrea Benjamin's
take on Hendrix will surely be the overlooked performance of the year.
Nailing Hendrix's mannerism, voice, passion (or lack there-of) and his
nonchalant attitude, Benjamin is spot-on. Not far behind is Imogen
Poots and her portrayal of Linda Keith, the woman who was responsible
for introducing the world to Hendrix. Poots is an absolute acting force
to be reckoned with. Linda's subdue scenes with Hendrix, although
somewhat tame and uneventful, give the audience the most auspicious
look into the inner workings of the Hendrix psyche.
All Is By My Side will surely be an overlooked film by critics and
audiences alike. Substituting thunderous Hendrix stage antics with
gorgeous shots of the London landscape, the smokey underground music
scene at the time and blurry world of rock and roll, cinematographer
Tim Fleming creates an intimate portrayal of a man who was mysterious
and misunderstood to others, but to himself as well.
All Is By My Side is a beautiful, quiet and stylistically generous
offering to the hardcore Hendrix fan.
Night Film Reviews: 7/10 Stars