All Is By My Side (2013)

August 15th, 2014
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director/Writer: John Ridley

Cast: Imogen Poots, Hayley Atwell, Andre Benjamin, Ruth Negga, Burn Gorman, Tom Dunlea

118 mins  UK Biopic

Jimi Hendrix will go down in history as the legendary rock musician who died of a drugs overdose. John Ridley’s montage biopic was made without the consent of the family so it is, by nature, impressionistic and possibly a tad ill-judged but passionate, none the less.

Why make such a film about Hendrix without access to his music, his family? Well this is a drama based around his life from the imagined  perspectives of various people in his coterie. Not every piece of art has to be fact-based and Ridley is entitled to give his version of the musician’s impact on the sixties music scene, from his own point of view. Whether it’s a cogent and valid piece of filmmaking is another matter.

Most noted for his screenplay of 12 Years A Slave, Ridley feels his way through this biopic with a judicious choice of acting talent and some interesting perceptions: some are engaging, some are crass. As Hendrix, André Benjamin evokes the gentle coltish physicality of the artist, playing him as a naive but wilful, free spirit. Imogen Poots is simply exultant as Linda Keith, the stabilising professional force in his career; a guiding light that showed him the way through sixties London from a balanced perspective, an intelligent girl who knew the ropes and was also Keith Richards’ girlfriend. And Hayley Atwell, sparkles as lover Kathy Echingham, who fought tooth and nail for Jimi’s attentions (in and out of bed) and became the inspiration for several classic hits. However, this is a callow depiction of the sixties which was a humorous upbeat time of new creative frontiers and artistic discovery, of fresh and fervent optimism untainted by greed, depravity or jadedness. Instead, what Ridley offers is a biopic about a slightly misguided loner who is indecisive in love and, for the most part, unremarkable as a rock musician. There are some disastrous, ill-judged moments where Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney are presented as laughable cardboard cut-outs via freeze-frame: an appalled device that pours derision on the film. Malcolm X is depicted as a benign uncle-like figure,

At nearly two hours All Is By My Side outstays its welcome, to say the least. Lacking in archive footage of the man himself performing his music, even diehard fans will fail to root for it, and as a testament to the swinging sixties it totally misses the beat. As a study of female adoration and groupiedom it hits the nail on the head. All Is By My Side may not be about the real Jimi Hendrix the rock musician, but through some strong performances, emerges the essence and charisma of a true artist and creative: who inspired strong feelings: to know him was to love him.

Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia