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Amy – Review


Release Date: 3 July 2015 [USA]
Director: Asif Kapadia
Writer: N/A - Documentary
Cast: Amy Winehouse - Mitch Winehouse - Mark Ronson

Posted July 27, 2015 by

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Amy Review:

Asif Kapadia’s long-awaited documentary Amy became the highest opening for a British documentary in the UK box office on its opening weekend. I remember when Amy Winehouse passed away. As the documentary points out, the press couldn’t get enough of her “messing up”, we constantly needed to know what she had “done next”, comedians mocked her, we tutted at her antics and giggled at her in glossy magazines. But she was “our kid”. Her talent was undisputed. And when she died, no one could quite believe it.

Director Asif Kapadia has done a wonderful, sensitive and thorough job of telling Amy’s story. The film is made up entirely of archival footage. Ranging from Winehouse family home movies to footage from the many, many programs made about Amy’s life we watch Amy shoot to stardom and the public eye and how she tried (and failed) to cope with it… The footage is narrated by those who were really and truly closest to her, her childhood friends Lauren and Juliet, her beloved Blake with whom she had a tortured and tempestuous love affair and marriage, her manager and longtime friend Nicky and her beloved father Mitch who, some might argue, was not the healthiest influence on her at the best of times…

And let me tell you, it doesn’t make for easy watching on any level. The first thing you are struck by is Amy’s talent and her dedication to her art. There are plenty of tracks sprinkled in throughout the documentary and as we listen to the old favourites – and a few that we have never heard before – and we remember with great clarity what brought her to the public eye in the first place. For Amy, it was all about the music. And for me, as I watched I couldn’t help but think of all the music we were missing out on, now that Amy is no longer with us. True, she was more famous for being drunk and/or high in public and on stage in the later days, but she was also a musician who won five Grammys and did a duet with Tony Bennett. We would do well to remember that, if only because it was her blessing and her curse – it was the reason she had to grapple with fame – and ultimately fail – in the first place.

As the story progresses Kapadia opts for less and less of the personal footage and moves onto press footage. In the first place it’s a matter of quantity – in the early days there simply was no press footage, she wasn’t famous yet. But as the story progresses and the balance of private footage to press footage happens slowly but surely we are struck by the sheer quantity of it. The never-ending barrage, the blinding flashes the fact that she couldn’t so much as take a step out of her house without being confronted by tens of journalists jostling and (pretty much) chasing her. It’s pretty

much enough to drive anyone to drink. Much less push someone with demons like Amy’s over the edge…

And don’t get me wrong – if the film is sympathetic to Amy, it sugar coats nothing. In interviews, Kapadia talks about how hard it was to get the close friends and family to talk. It was long and torturous but when it happened, it had a large sense of the therapeutic because it was, for most of them, the first time they had spoken openly to anyone outside the inner circle about this… So it all comes pouring out first hand, the violent arguments with Blake, that infamous time she stumbled onto a stage in Serbia unaware of where she was, the fruitless attempts from her friends to get her treated… It is well known that her father, Mitchell Winehouse was not happy with the direction the documentary ultimately took. Kapadia has responded by saying that he made a film that he felt was true to who Amy was… And the documentary is nothing if not honest, it doesn’t paint a rosy picture or indeed, as such, defend. Amy was after all, far from perfect. But nor was she “just a druggie” or indeed some stereotype for the drunk, drug-addled party goer, a caricature if you will. It actually reminded me a lot of Montage of Heck in some respects – although Kurt and Courtney were one of THE most discussed couples in music history, Kurt “checked out” before the internet and the phenomenon of this omnipresent and oppressive press that was constantly watching and, through the viewers who use said internet and consume the content, judging, mocking and begging for more.

So roll up if you dare and watch the real story. If you want more “shocking antics” to tut over, you’re kind of at the wrong address. Because – not that I have ever been there – once you get to know the real person, I have a feeling “tutting” at Amy isn’t nearly that fun anymore…


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Sedef Hekimgil
Essie Speaks
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