Amy – Movie Review by Emily Elphinstone
Director: Asif Kapadia
Stars: Amy Winehouse, Yasiin Bey, Mark Ronson
Amy Winehouse spent so much time in the public eye, with paparazzi following her every move; that it may be easy to think we know the woman behind the music already. However, new documentary Amy, created by Asif Kapadia (director of Bafta winning documentary Senna) allows the audience to rediscover the real woman and the incredible music in the most incredibly powerful way.
With unprecedented access to home footage made by friends, family, and Amy herself; there are similarities to Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck; another account of a musician famously joining the 27 club by dying before his time. Beginning with a video showing 14 year old Winehouse serenading a friend with ‘Happy Birthday’ in the style of Marilyn Monroe, the audience are quickly invited in as one of the group; and the involvement of some of her closest friends (Juliette Ashby, Lauren Gilbert, and first manager Nick Shymansky) is part of what makes the documentary so engaging. Not only do we get to see Winehouse’s brilliant humour, as she shows friends round an apartment in the character of a flirty Spanish housemaid; we also get truly personal insights, like the confession moments after winning at the Grammys that ‘this is so boring without drugs.’
Like Senna, the people being interviewed are never seen on screen; instead providing voice-over which emphasises what we see. With insight into her journal, and lyrics scrawled across the screen in real time with the music, the autobiographical elements of her songs are made even more poignant. This is particularly heartbreaking when we read the lyrics to ‘Rehab’ just after learning about her Dad’s assertion that she didn’t need treatment early on in her addiction; or as we witness the tempestuous relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, which provided inspiration for so many of her songs.
As her life and career is shown in chronological order throughout, the inevitable spiral into addiction, surrounded by paparazzi flashbulbs and satirising from comedians, is all the more painful to watch. With her early insistence that she wouldn’t, or shouldn’t be famous; and a number of people claiming that ‘there was only so much they could do’, it’s not entirely surprising that the Winehouse family have now distanced themselves from the documentary. Overall, Amy is a raw and incredibly powerful film, that’ll have you digging up her entire back catalogue, and wondering how it all happened so quickly.