Amy (2015)

Kapadia’s follow up to ‘Senna’ is an intimate and at times disheartening look at the perils of celebrity, fame and their vices.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Asif Kapadia
2015 | UK | Documentary/Music | 128 mins | 1.85:1 | English
NC16 (passed clean) for language and drug material

Cast: –
Plot: The story of Amy Winehouse in her own words, featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Eye and Queer Palm (Cannes). Won 1 Oscar – Best Documentary
International Sales: Focus Features Intl

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 24 Aug 2015
Spoilers: No

Asif Kapadia is on a roll.  His latest documentary Amy comes as a follow up to Senna (2010), an excellent piece on the ill-fated F1 driver Ayrton Senna, who lost his life tragically during a race in 1994. 

In Amy, his subject is the popular jazz and soul singer Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol overdose and drug abuse in 2011.  It is just as good – well researched and giving us an intimate look at Winehouse’s spiral downhill from a young bubbly singer on the verge of greatness to a worn out celebrity in the doldrums. 

Amy is put together from a myriad of source footage, some publicly available, some from home videos shot by the subject’s close friends or family, the latter somehow making their way into the documentary by virtue of permission I presume. 

Featuring voiceover interviews from Winehouse’s father to her managers and agents throughout the years, the film charts her growth and destruction at the hands of her boyfriend, father and the paparazzi.  Her only solace was alcohol, cocaine and heroin.  That, my friend, is one lethal combo.

I don’t think I’m going to be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I’d probably go mad, do you know what I mean? I would go mad.

By turns insightful and disheartening, Amy is also a reminder (or perhaps tribute is a more apt word to use here) of Winehouse’s vocal and songwriting talents, something that fans have sorely missed. 

Kapadia puts her flowing, almost poetic lyrics on screen, marked by angst and forlorn, inviting us to sing along with her.  I must concede that I have not heard of Amy Winehouse until her tragic death, which I dismissed as one of those celebrity mishaps. 

It wasn’t until the release of Amy that the spotlight was recast on her.  It was similarly the case for Ayrton Senna. I think Kapadia’s documentaries go to show that cinema can immortalize people who have left us way too early. 

The voice of Amy Winehouse would echo on, her youthful zest would be remembered, and her misery would be taken as a warning.  As much as Amy celebrates her immense talents, it is also a penetrating tale of caution – no unicorn fantasies, only hard-hitting realities.

Grade: B+



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