Jimi: All is By My Side review - lost in period haze

André Benjamin shines in a strangely muted boipic that seems to struggle against its own limitations

Jimi: All is by my Side
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Director: John Ridley
Cert: Club
Genre: Drama
Starring: André Benjamin, Hayley Atwell, Burn Gorman
Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins

Jimi Hendrix's ex-girlfriend Kathy Etchingham claims that scenes of domestic violence in All Is By My Side are entirely invented. We hardly needed telling. When said incidents occur in this strangely muted biopic, they don't feel realistic or even organic to this alreadly curveball project.

A riff on Jimi's early London years written and directed by 12 Years a Slave's Oscar winner John Ridley, All is By My Side is notable for its lack of Hendrix tunes, as Ridley was unable to secure the rights. It falls to cinematographer Tim Fleming and editors Hank Corwin and Chris Gill to inventively paper over a mostly Irish shoot with nouvelle-vague–alike jump shots, overlapping dialogue and montages.

The results feel like an impressive, if academic, exercise, as if this coldly effective period drama exists to spite dozens of restrictions, mostly of a budgetary nature.

Against these limitations, André Benjamin is superb in the central role. His Jimi is as enigmatic as he is charismatic: we’re never sure if his cosmic mumblings are a testament to genius or evidence of way too much weed. Things just seem to happen to Jimi. He’s passed around between music business types and women, with little or no resistance.


Elsewhere, historical figures – Brian Epstein, Andrew Loog Oldham -- are introduced with unnecessary onscreen name badges. Imogen Poots makes for a sympathetic Linda Keith, the girlfriend to Keith Richards who discovered Hendrix in New York. Sadly, Hayley Atwell and Ruth Negga are not given enough material to transcend the 'Old Lady' label.

No one could say that Ridley's film is uninventive. But it's hard to see who it is for, exactly. Benjamin's cover of Wild Thing plays over the end credits. So why we couldn't have had more cover versions of the ones Jimi didn't write?

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic