When dealing with an iconic figure such as Jimi Hendrix, sometimes the hardest thing is managing to capture the essence of a the 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 Hendrix–the experience.
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