Review: Orion – The Man Who Would Be King

Art & Culture

Imagine you had all the talent of Elvis Presley – tall, handsome and with one of the most distinctively unique voices of all time – yet you just got there a few years to late. That's the unfortunate fate that befell a young man named Jimmy Ellis who had dreams of musical stardom dashed purely down to just how much he sounded like the king when he sang. Ellis's humble beginnings on a farm sadly lead him to be naively taken advantage of throughout his life and unfortunately, despite the successes he had, his tale is not a particularly happy one.

However, the work of British director Jeanie Finlay does in highlighting this story leads to an utterly astounding venture in which you're never entirely sure where the seemingly impossible events that took place will end. Rather than focusing on 'what if…' aspects of Ellis's life, Finlay opts to guide us through a story that is unfortunately nowhere near as well known as it deserves to be. What is truly heart-warming about how the documentary is put together is that there isn't a wealth of screen time devoted to Elvis and the focus remains well and truly on the man at the heart of this story throughout. While you are made to care for the lead role in this documentary filled with lies, clever marketing and plenty of confusion, he's far from the perfect character – his attitude towards women leaves a lot to be desired, though there appears to be a rather upsetting tale behind why this could be.

Story aside, the film has two defining strengths that really help it get into your heart. The first of these is the soundtrack which consists mostly of performances by Ellis, right the way through from high school until the latter stages of his life once the idea that he could well be Elvis in disguise had been well and truly banished. The aural arc provided works perfectly alongside the series of highs and lows experienced by Ellis and right until the very closing credits there isn't so much as a note that seems out of place. The second aspect that ensures the film lingers long in the memory is the frank honesty of all those who have been willing to give their time to talk to Finlay. Whether these be people who were ripped off, members of Ellis's band or a selection of the women he had been romantically involved with, there was never any sense that any part of the truth was being held from you as it had previously been from those involved.

In some ways Jimmy Ellis was able to get what he wanted yet he learned swiftly that these things can come at a price. This documentary lets you in on some of the lesser-known aspects of the music industry and sheds a little light on the infamous 'Elvis isn't dead' rumours. You'll be educated, cautioned and, above all else, you'll come away from the film with plenty of emotions running through you. That's the sign of a well made documentary.

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King is in cinemas on 25th September – find out more about it here.