Amy (A documentary about Amy Winehouse) by Asif Kapadia
“Amy" is the first documentary about one of the 21st century's greatest musician and songwriter: Amy Winehouse. The singer who gained fame in the UK in 2003 with her album Frank, then internationally in 2006 after the release of Back To Black; died of alcohol poisoning in her Camden apartment almost 4 years ago, on the 23rd of July 2011. The movie which was directed by Asif Kapadia - the man behind “Senna” - is a documentary that has the virtue of setting the record straight about Winehouse. Indeed, the jazz singer was more famous for her outrageous setbacks rather than her outstanding talent. In the last years of her life, Winehouse was constantly pursued by journalists thirsty for juicy headlines, leading the general public to label the artist a worthless junky.
“Amy” teaches us many things by taking us through the details of the late singer’s descent into hell. The movie introduces us to a young girl who was raised by her single mother, since her father left them after years of infidelity, and yet reappeared when his daughter released her first record. Winehouse is depicted as a teenager who already shows alarming signs of instability and vulnerability, starting with her weed addiction very soon followed by alcohol. At that moment in time, we learn that the singer is not only a self-destructive nature; she is also surrounded by careless people. Indeed, Amy Winehouse’s parents admit to have neglected their child's bulimic disorder from a very young age, assuming that “it will pass”. It gets worse when the movie starts revealing a father who is completely indifferent to his daughter’s alcohol addiction, seeking his own financial interest by sending her on tour at the expense of her fragile health.
But Amy Winehouse’s toxic circle will extend when she meets her future husband Blake Fielder-Civil in a Camden pub. The documentary exposes the self-destructive lifestyle of the two alter-egos who describe themselves as long-lost twins. Fielder-Civil admits introducing Winehouse to heroin and crack-cocaine, but that’s not news. The horrendous pictures of the couple getting high together are nothing new either; in fact, they can be found in any people magazine published between 2005 and 2009. That aspect of the movie doesn’t seem to have any significant purpose but voyeurism. All the stories and interviews are clear enough to speak for themselves, and perhaps such illustrations aren’t necessary since they don’t commemorate the singer as the movie intends to; quite the contrary actually.
The treasures that Kapadia’s documentary contains are mainly to be found in the footages of a heart-warming Amy Winehouse, being funny, honest and real. Other gems include demonstrations of her extraordinary talent while recording Back To Black; the album she wrote about her first break-up with Blake Fielder-Civil who, coincidentally reappeared in her life just after the release and immediate success of the record. “Amy” also has the merit of bringing to light the artist’s downward spiral, which was encouraged by elements of her closest entourage such as her father or her husband, despite all the efforts put in by the singer’s management and childhood friends to help her out, in vain…
Did this 27 year old woman deserve that kind of treatment, the incessant scrutinising from the media and the finger pointing from the public? Or was it just the coup de grace for a human being that was already beat by her lifestyle and bad influences? What is certain is that “Amy” puts the lifestyle of one of the most controversial and criticised singer of the decade into a new perspective, to the sound of one of the most unique voices that the world sadly lost to early.