It will move you, and make you realise that fame really isn’t everything.
From Asif Kapadia’s documentary AMY, we are given a 128-minute glimpse into the life of a girl who had an incredible voice and sense of compassion for music, but ultimately succumbed to her addiction of alcohol. Kapadia combines archival footage such as home-videos and talk show interviews with Amy Winehouse, with voiceovers from new interviews recorded with her family and former associates; each with their own story to tell about her.
Constructed in a timeline format leading up to her death, Kapadia starts with the young Amy – a childish girl who loved to sing and spend time with her friends. A fourteenth birthday party, where we hear her incredible voice come out at her feeble age. From there, the well paced documentary deviates between on-stage performances and paparazzi footage of Amy throughout her late teenage years and early twenties.
The documentary is a highlight of how fame can hurt a soul, how drugs and alcohol can affect a persona and how tragic fame can really be. Before watching the film, I never truly appreciated Amy Winehouse for who she was – I only saw her as a singer who constantly battled drugs and alcohol, and I thought she enjoyed the thrill of being in the limelight. But the documentary opened my eyes to how incredibly savage the media is, and how the media gave Amy the reputation she in no way deserved.
Amy Winehouse had an incredible voice that resonated through the centuries. She was a unique character, an “old soul”, and she used music as her outlet. But to deal with fame, her life and everything that came with it, Winehouse sought drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms, with a lot of help from her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil – which the documentary highlights greatly. This relationship – which fuelled her album ‘Back To Black’ was terrible for both of them, they were drugs to one another and it seemed they were addicted to each other. But after an affair, leaving each other, reuniting and marriage, they eventually divorced.
AMY portrays Fielder-Civil as the one who dragged her into his demons; the drugs, the heroin, the alcohol. But their love at the start seemed almost hopeful; almost in some way, like a fairytale. She said she had met the love her life, and they seemed to spend every living second with each other. But then he returned to his previous girlfriend, sending Winehouse into a downward spiral.
“I will love you unconditionally till my heart fails and I fall down dead,” Amy Winehouse in a voicemail message to Blake.
It is part-way through the documentary we hear from her family and friends about her childhood and how she grew up. It is there we are shown Amy’s early stages of bulimia, and we hear from her mother, how she “thought it would pass, but it didn’t,” – that bit shocked me. In regards to her family though, it seemed she loved them to the core, but the separation of her mother and father at age nine is what cause her to be “rebellious” – with Blake saying that it was that element in Amy’s life that likened the two of them together.
The documentary also shows Winehouse’s incredible love for music, for Jazz. To the core, Amy wanted to be a Jazz singer, but fame seemed to sweep her up on its feet like a rocket ship launching to the moon; once she was in the public eye she couldn’t escape from it. Consistently bombarded by paparazzi once her song “Rehab” was released, she became overwhelmed with being in the spotlight.
But using an excellent combination of interviews, images, flashbacks and graphics, such as Amy’s handwriting for the songs she wrote, the documentary proves to be an insightful look into the life of a woman who didn’t want to be in the limelight and who dealt with fame in a very public setting. With excellent pacing and plenty of interviews from those around her including her manager, her father, Blake and her doctor, AMY will attempt to change your view on a woman who just wanted to be loved and enjoy music for the rest of her life.