Amy is a documentary that focuses on the rise and fall of the extraordinary Amy Winehouse. She lived hard and died young at the tragically young age of twenty-seven. The film uses raw archive footage, and later mass media content to chart her journey from a promising and immensely talented teenager to tragic rock n roll cliche. For most people that’s how we remember her.
Using home videos she is first seen, as s a fresh faced and focused young girl, travelling to and from gigs, blessed with an extraordinary voice and an understanding of fame that contradicts the “idol” and “voice” generation. She is a gifted writer, and an old soul trapped in the body of a young girl. We learn later that her father’s 9 year long affair that lead to the break-up of her parents marriage had a significant impact on Winehouse’s mental state. Bulimia and alcohol binges followed.
After a successful debut album, she then unfortunately meets Blake Fielder, her life takes a turn for the worse, the drug taking becomes manic, and it corresponds with her rise to fame, which is a recipe for disaster. Director Asif Kapadia argues that Fielder-Civil is largely responsible for her descent into the hell of drug addiction. Her father is also depicted as a pariah, using her fame to launch his own pathetic attempt at fifteen minutes of fame. In one scene as she recovers from a recent bout of addiction on a secluded island, Mitch arrives with his own documentary crew to prop up his pathetic attempt at celebrity. It’s a damning portrait of the mass media.
Like Kapadia’s award winning Senna (2010) I suspect viewers who know little about the real Amy Winehouse will be absolutely enthralled with the film. My perceptions were markedly changed in viewing the film. Like Senna I started watching with title interest in the subject matter, but by films end I was absolutely enthralled and saddened by the loss of a unique talent.
The great Tony Bennett says it best, in advising the distraught Winehouse on fame, “Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough.” What happened next made those words all the more haunting.