Director: Asif Kapadia
Starring: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Tony Bennett, Blake Fielder-Civil, Yasiil Bey, Salaam Remi
Running Time: 128 mins
Release date: 3rd July 2015
I remember the day Amy Winehouse died. I was at a barbecue and when the news came through, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. It didn’t shock us as the deaths of Michael Jackson or Elvis or John Lennon had. In fact, it felt more like relief than sorrow. That this troubled singer whose life had been plastered over the papers ever since she won her first award, was in a better place. Now we have Amy, a documentary from the makers of one of the finest films this century, Senna, which tries to piece together the story of this remarkable talent.
Amy was brought up in North London. Her father leaving the family home when she was nine, she was also in trouble until her jazz voice changed her fate. With very personal lyrics about her own heartaches and pain, she became an overnight sensation after the release of her first album, Frank. From that point on, Amy’s life would never be the same. With awards and critical success as well as being a hit with the fans, she meets and falls in love with Blake Fielder, moves to Camden, reconnects with her father, becomes an international superstar with Back In Black, then the drinking and drug taking begins.
Like Senna, the whole film is skillful put together using archive footage, personal film and never-before-seen performances, with interviews of all the key players (just voices, never shown). It tells the story from her begins, how she was persuaded to write songs, her impact on the music world with her album Frank, to the downward spiral. All the while you are watching this and listening to the people in her life recounting events, you start to put together a picture of Amy that we may never have seen before, that of a smart, intelligent, witty and often honest person. Then when the troubles start, you can see the physical changes. Where once she smiled, the smile was gone. Where once she was open and honest, she becomes closed and guarded.
Asif Kapadia’s film never once points its finger and says that he’s to blame or she’s to blame. Instead, and this is beauty of the piece, it allows the audience to make up its own mind, as if you need to read between the frames. You immediately realise that moving to Camden was the worst thing in her world to do and you find yourself secretly inside screaming out that someone needs to tell her.
There are not too many films that, for over two hours, you are caught up in, you become so emotionally involved it becomes painful. Understanding Amy’s state of mind and then watching comedians ridicule her, is heartbreaking. Seeing her constantly living through flashing lights of the paparazzi becomes unbearable. You literally want to pull her from the screen and try to protect her.
Then at the heart is the music. This was a talent, pure and simple. When a legend like Tony Bennett makes a comment about how good she was, you listen. Her words, beautifully illustrating her life, are touching and true. Even a song like Rehab, so often played, becomes something different when watching this film. Kapadia uses these lyrics as a form of narration, as we listen to that remarkable voice, the words carve their way through the screen, each one as pitiful and painful as the next.
Amy is not only technically a superb piece of word; the editing alone of the thousands of hours of clips and photos should win some kind of award. Amy is a remarkable piece of cinema. A film that gets under your skin and stays there long after it has finished. By the time we hear “Love Is A Losing Game” you will be in tears. A truly magnificent masterpiece of a movie. I urge you. No, I insist that you see this incredible film about an incredible artist.