Brilliant, original, soulful, heart-wrenching, troubled, haunted, sad. These are just a handful of words that have been used to describe the late Amy Winehouse. Exceptionally talented but also cursed with an addictive and self-destructive personality, Winehouse was increasingly defined by her addiction rather than her outstanding talent. Director, Asif Kapadia, aimed to capture this talent in his new documentary, Amy, chronicling Amy Winehouse’s rise to fame and her rapid descent into addiction and eventually death.
After a debut at Cannes, the film has been, much like Amy’s life, dogged with controversy. Mitch Winehouse (Amy’s father) has expressed disappointment in the documentary, branding it ‘unbalanced’, mostly due to the film implicating him in her downfall.
While the film never pinpoints exactly where Amy goes off the rails to begin with, there are a number of factors that obviously played a part. Was it her parents’ separation? Or perhaps her hedonistic lifestyle after moving to Camden? Was it even later, following the release of Back to Black and the pressure of fame became too much? Was it the influence of her husband, who has openly admitted to introducing her to hard drugs? Was it the media and their relentless harassment of her? Was it simply her self-destructive personality? Whatever it was, the film doesn’t seek to place blame. Instead it provides vignettes from Amy’s rise to fame, footage sometimes as raw and grainy as Amy herself, ends quickly with her funeral and leaves its audience to make the call.
While the film includes professional footage, the heart and soul of this film is probably the significant amount of home movie footage, archive material and old photos and demos of Amy that are used. The extensive interviews with many of those closest to her also give us an insight into what the real Amy might have been like behind closed doors. In her short life, Amy won 24 awards, including 5 Grammys for Back to Black, and received 60 nominations for her outstanding work.
Amy is a soulful, raw and heartbreaking look into the life of a very intelligent and talented girl who sadly could not overcome her vices but whom achieved more in a few short years than most of us could ever dream of doing in a lifetime. It is an unmissable film.