I know this will kill my chances of being the coolest guy in the room, but I couldn’t name you one Amy Winehouse song. That’s not a slight to her. I’m simply not into newer music like I once was. But despite that I certainly knew who Amy Winehouse was. From 2003 through 2011 Winehouse became an international music sensation. Her powerful vocals and jazz-influenced sound gave her a uniqueness that was embraced by millions around the world. Unfortunately her life was also troubled which led to her sad and untimely death in 2011 at the age of only 27.
Asif Kapadia’s documentary simply titled “Amy” seeks to shed light on the young woman behind the music and the headlines. It offers viewers a chance to reevaluate Winehouse by diving deeper into her personal life, close relationships, and intense emotional struggles. Music is a key part of the film, but this is first and foremost an individual inner-exploration. And as someone who knew more about Winehouse from news headlines, this is an insightful and eye-opening look.
Amazingly so much of Winehouse’s rise to fame and eventual tragic slide was caught on video. Kapadia gained access to hundreds of hours of footage highlighting her life much of it never before seen. Some of the footage comes from performances including her disastrous final show in Belgrade, Serbia approximately a month before she died.
Juggling this wealth of real-time information must have been a formidable undertaking, but Kapadia’s decisions on what to include and what to omit couldn’t have been much better. And then there are segments pulled from over 100 interviews. Kapadia’s approach along with Chris King’s impeccable editing create a fluid and cohesive narrative that will undoubtedly shed a new light on a talented young woman scared by her past and overwhelmed by her present.
“Amy” tells the singer’s story while also looking at a number of other pertinent topics such as aggressive media obsession, drug addiction, alcoholism, harmful relationships, and destructive personal lifestyles. These topics aren’t wielded as weapons of judgment towards Amy Winehouse. They are respectfully used to explain and put her troubled life into perspective. But at the same time you can’t help but sense the subtle warnings Kapadia is showing us. These elements combine to give us an interesting and challenging documentary that transcends the simplicity of music or entertainment.
VERDICT – 4 STARS