UK Release Date: 3rd July 2015
Runtime: 128 minutes
Director: Asif Kapadia
Writer: Asif Kapadia
Starring: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Blake Fielder-Civil, Nick Shymanksy, Darcus Beese, Mos Def
Synopsis: A forensic look at the rise and tragic fall of singer Amy Winehouse, from drugs and bad influences to the paparazzi and media perceptions.
With Senna, documentary maker Asif Kapadia managed to produce a compelling film about F1 that entertained even those who knew nothing about the sport or Ayrton Senna. For his latest film, Kapadia has turned his trademark eye to controversial singer Amy Winehouse, who tragically died in 2011. Amy is a tender, unbiased piece of work that illuminates its complex subject.
Tracing her life from its very beginnings to its sad and untimely end, Kapadia presents a collage of archive footage, narrated by key figures from Winehouse’s world. Amy covers Winehouse’s early life, rise to stardom, relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil and fall from grace, entirely in the public eye.
Kapadia is one of the most interesting documentarians working today and, with Amy, he shows exactly why that is the case. He creates his picture of Amy Winehouse’s controversial life with the eye for detail of a detective and a real commitment to unemotional balance.
| "I don’t think I’ll be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I would probably go mad."
However, despite Kapadia’s noticeable emotional distance, the film itself is a treasure trove of deep, potent feeling. The film portrays Winehouse as a waste of talent – a vulnerable woman with an incredible gift who was forced into a world she didn’t understand and couldn’t cope with. Early in the film, she says that fame would probably make her “go mad” and she couldn’t have known how eerie those words would seem later.
The film spends its first hour convincing the audience to fall completely in love with Winehouse and her precocious musical talent. The subsequent hour of Amy is given to dismantling that image in a cacophonous barrage of flashbulbs, missed omens and bad decisions from all parties involved.
It’s a delicate bit of structural work from Kapadia, who admits that he came to the film without knowing much about Winehouse, learning as the production moved along. By the time the film shines a light on the campaign of casual abuse towards Amy in the media, it’s impossible not to feel a little culpable for turning this human being into a living, breathing media circus when all she wanted to do was make music.
| "Singing was always important to me."
Without ever feeling as if he is lecturing the audience or condemning anyone, Kapadia constructs a deeply emotional narrative with Amy. Throughout the film, Winehouse is presented as an astonishing musical talent, unleashed without much support up the treacherous and unruly creek of fame. If only someone had given her a paddle.
Pop or Poop?
Amy takes an unusual path for a music doc in that it seeks to create a complete portrait of a human being, who was just a tabloid caricature for many.
Director Asif Kapadia never takes sides, but is also unafraid to point out that Winehouse’s death wasn’t entirely a tragedy of her own making.
Most importantly, though, Amy shines a light on one of the most iconic figures of modern British music and certainly does her proud.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.