<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Asif Kapadia. Footage of Amy Winehouse and her colleagues, friends and family
For fans of the singer, this will be both a revelation and a way to get close to their favourite artiste. If you’re not a fan, then it could get a bit boring.
Rehab was her award-winning single and that is an irony indeed. You hear it and wish she had just said, “Yes, yes, yes.” Amy Winehouse started off singing very young and by the age of 18 she was ready to sign a contract. But she was never ready for fame and fortune. Her singing style was authentic Jazz and she wanted to simply write songs and perform.
When Amy starts off you wonder if they film has lookalikes playing the actual personalities and quickly realise it’s all just footage from her life: recordings at the studio, live performances, personal videos and footage shot by her friends and colleagues as well as her boyfriend. There are no ‘talking heads’ being interviewed for the documentary. Just voiceovers with subtitles telling you who are speaking and their relationship with Amy: her manager and buddy Nick Shymansky, her two best friends, her dad Mitch, the promoter etc. There’s news interviews and photos interwoven to give you a year-by-year chronological run up of events till her death at the age of 27.
This ‘old soul in a young body’ was hounded by the press in England and often ‘handled’ by her father – at first estranged but quick to jump on the gravy boat – and record company. Her addiction to alcohol lead her to a man who wasn’t the best thing for her but, as it always happens, he turns out to be the love of her life. But Blake Fielder-Civil is the one who introduced Amy to crack cocaine and heroine, leading them both into a spiral of violence and health scares that ultimately left Amy weak and on the brink of death. She just pushed herself over when she couldn’t take anymore.
A part of me wonders how we sometimes glorify these ‘famous people’ who use illegal drugs and abuse their bodies, who can’t take charge of their own lives and who seemingly have so much but act as though they are empty and alone. What stops them from walking away? What don’t they understand about drugs and excessive alcohol being bad for you? Or is it part and parcel of the tortured artistes life to indulge in this behaviour as a response to the media attention and lack of privacy?
If you’re a fan of Amy Winehouse you’ll sing along to the lyrics on screen and shed a tear at the end of this film. If you’re not, go watch Minions.