I’d been waiting to see this documentary since I heard it was being made. I’m a fan of Amy Winehouse’s music. The first time I heard her voice, I fell thoroughly in love with it. When Amy died, I mourned the loss of her immense talent. To this day, the sultry, melancholic depth of her singing rips the soul right from my body and tap dances all over it. Amy is the story of the girl behind the magnificent talent, compelling songs and tragic vices.
Asif Kapadia (Director) effectively opens a window into Amy Winehouse’s early years with this film. Through personal voice mails, archival footage, cell phone videos and even the lyrics that Winehouse herself wrote, we get what feels like an authentic look at the life of an infinitely vulnerable woman on the cusp of something great.
The movie opens with video of Amy singing Happy Birthday to her childhood friend. She doesn’t look much like the person the world would one day come to know, but that thing in her voice is already there. We get to watch as Amy embarks on her career as a singer. We hear, in her own words, how deeply she connects with music, her own especially. It’s a rush of joy to discover that her songs, which still resonate with so many, were deeply personal to her as well.
Amy delves into everything from her love of jazz to her obsession with Blake Fielder-Civil, her husband from 2005-2009. Every topic is tackled with the effervescent presence that is her passion. We’re even given a sense of the abandonment, lack of structure and discipline, which shaped her youth. Kapadia ties together the personal videos, archival footage and music expertly to provide a comprehensive look at Winehouse’s life just before she became an international star.
Through Amy, Kapadia gives us the opportunity to celebrate Winehouse’s breakthrough stardom alongside her. We’re privy to moments that feel inherently personal. We feel her fame swell and circumstances quickly spin out of control. We watch helplessly as she gives into unhealthy relationships and addictive substances. We see her personality change and we watch as the sparkle in her eyes begins to fade. We’re left heartbroken when we feel her depression overtake her and we're at a loss wehen we see her self-destructive nature win out.
Kapadia doesn’t hold back when it comes to drawing conclusions about contributors to Amy’s ultimate demise. Her father, Mitch Winehouse is portrayed as a callous man too focused on Amy’s career to concern himself with the drawbacks of interventions and rehab. Her mother Janis is the pushover mom who let her daughter get away with everything. When Amy goes so far as to tell Janis she’s become bulimic, her mom just figures it’s a phase that she’ll grow out of. It is truly devastating and even Amy herself says all she ever needed was someone to tell her, “no.”
Just as we get to relive those moments that made her great—like her duet with Tony Bennett—we must watch as she destroys herself, too. Your heart will break again after getting to know the girl so grounded in her roots that she never did shake the accent, even after elocution lessons.
Amy is exemplary because it provides a complete picture of a woman who went from next door to worldwide fame and died in the process. Amy makes Winehouse more human than punch line and for that I’m glad. Kapadia does an excellent job of demonstrating how fickle the media (and us spectators) can be and just how big a part we all play in destroying the beauty that comes along with great talent and soul. This documentary feels as real and raw as Winehouse's music. I cannot think of a better compliment than that. Go see it.
Amy - A
A = Movies this good don’t happen often and If you’re going to watch something you should watch this. This is exactly what I go looking for when I go to the movies and I trust you’ll enjoy it if you keep an open mind and give it a go.