KSI: In Real Life (2023) Review

Having worked beside KSI covering media for all his DAZN & Misfits Boxing events and having had several closed door conversations with the human rotating door of professions, I was always intrigued the origin of his mindset and how he maintains it indefinitely in the public eye. When I heard a documentary detailing exactly this was debuting this month, it went straight to the top of my watchlist.

As the documentary opens, it very quickly reminds you how long it has been in development – since June of 2021, over two and a half years. The timeline is somewhat chronological. While it follows JJ through 2021 and 2022, the documentary retains the freedom to jump forward and back in time to provide context to the current storyline; one such example is the representation of the genesis of the KSI character. I say character, as the film makes sure to depict JJ Olatunji and KSI as two distinct entities: JJ Olatunji is the real, aspirational KSI is the fictional alter ego created by JJ to portray a confident, funny character to win over the internet.


As the life of KSI becomes more appealing, the lines between the two individuals get blurred. These benchmarks in JJ’s life allow the documentary to split into three key moments that are spliced together: the origin of KSI, the merging of KSI and JJ Olatunji, and the separation of the two identities.

All the important relationships of JJ’s life are put on display. While some are kept private out of personal choice (such as that with his girlfriend), they are still featured in some regard, and their significance in JJ’s journey are still reflected. One that shines in the one-and-a-half-hour feature is JJ’s elastic relationship with his brother, Deji.

As most prospective viewers will know, the Olatunji brothers have had a bumpy relationship – they were very close at the start of their YouTube journeys but fell out heavily as their YouTube personas overshadowed the real people behind them. The film has the pair explain in their own words how and why their relationship fell apart and the slow process they embarked on to rebuild it. This is a topic that I was highly anticipating an examination into and is one I think many will be satisfied with.

The documentary features deep moments with the Olatunji family, and doesn’t shy away from challenging topics, informing viewers of the many struggles their family went through. Even his parents openly discuss the severe mistakes they made in raising their sons, including their use of physical abuse, and their reasons for doing so, and current regret. The portrayed upbringing of JJ is one I anticipate a lot of viewers will relate to – something I was surprised was so similar to my own. 

The lives of other people important to JJ’s life and the effect he had on them, good and bad, are front and centre. Each of these figures provide their insights into JJ and has them explain why they believe he’s been so successful and what they believe he lacks in his life. What is perhaps the strongest positive I can surmise for the feature, is that despite being a documentary about KSI, the film doesn’t shy away from painting JJ in a bad light at times. It provides a strikingly honest portrait of JJ and how others perceive him and the KSI alter ego.

This documentary doesn’t have the typical production value of a TV documentary. The Prime Video budget and care from Mindhouse Productions really shines through the cinematography of the feature, as it’s shot more like a traditional film than a documentary; this extends to the aspect ratio, which adopts the theatrical “letterbox” approach rather than the adapted-for-TV “widescreen” format most documentaries have – this awards the film a larger than life feeling that is fitting to the ambitious and ever-expanding persona of KSI. Even the structure of the documentary deviates from other documentaries in true Louis Theroux fashion.

If you’re a fan or are merely interested in the pop-culture personality of KSI, I strongly encourage you to spare an hour and a half to traverse the mind of JJ Olatunji. 

KSI: In Real Life is an exploratory journey in time that explores sensitive and private topics with full force and uses emotional fragility to its benefit. It is an honest and intelligent biographical tour that forces all doors open in the mind of the man behind the internet persona KSI.

KSI: In Real Life debuts Thursday 26th on Prime Video. Watch the trailer below:

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