Published on June 22nd, 2015 | by Allan Brown1
EIFF 2015: Amy Review
Movie Review: Amy (2015)
Running Time: 128 minutes
Director: Asif Kapadia
Cast: Amy Winehouse, Yasiin Bey, Tony Bennett, Salaam Remi, Blake Fielder-Civil, Mark Ronson, Mitch Winehouse
As with Senna, Kapadia skilfully combines a plethora of archival footage, interlacing home videos, voicemail’s and camera phone footage with interviews from the key people she was closest to throughout her life. These key people include; her best friend Juliette Ashby, her manager Nick Shymansky, music producer and friend Salaam Remi, her dotting (yet naïve father) Mitch Winehouse, to her enabler and icicles heel; boyfriend, husband, soul mate and muse, Blake Fielder Civil. From this Kapadia effortlessly assembles a strong arcing narrative that catalogues Amy’s humble beginnings, which starts as a 14 year old singing happy birthday straight into camera. This is where we hear her distinctive and soulful cry for the very first time. We are then guided through the rest of her tough childhood, her early gigs, record contract and the success of her first album; FRANK. This seemingly happy time in Amy’s life, plays prelude to the stratospheric and suffocating success of her hit single REHAB, and following album BACK TO BLACK before her tragic and untimely death on 23 July 2011 aged just 27.
However, this is more than just another habitual account of a music icon’s life. Kapadia risks scratching a little deeper than most documentary filmmakers would perhaps dare on such a raw, controversial and recent tragedy as this. Kapadia’s edit says: Sure, Amy had her troubles, she was plagued with bulimia and clinically depressed from an early age, was devastated as a child from her father walking out on the family, had a very self-destructive, compulsive and addictive nature and was more than ill equipped for the fame that would inevitably consumer her. However, are we the public and the voyeur celebrity culture we have created and so hunger for, somehow played a part in all this tragedy? Did every tabloid newspaper we bought, story we read, or laugh we had at the vulnerable stars expense, somehow contribute to her fall?
These tough and troubling questions also land on the laps of the key men in Amy’s life, namely her father Mitch and husband Blake Fielder Civil. Both appear to be holding on to Amy coat-tails to fund his own selfish needs throughout her success. When Amy (in a most troubled state) disappears to St. Lucia to escape the hounding paparazzi in London, Mitch her father, brings a camera crew to film a behind the scenes TV show. Despite Kapadia’s documentary receiving some understandable flak from Mitch, who labelled it as a disgrace, it is clear that both he and Blake cashed in extensively from Amy’s global stardom, and not always without her approval or consent. The extensive footage presented also gently suggests, perhaps some of her troubles, be it with drugs, alcohol, depression or bulimia, could have been reduced if she had the guidance, advice and support from the most influential men in her life at the right time.
Despite these hard, lingering and thought provoking questions, the film indeed celebrates Amy’s life and unique talent as a musician. In an industry plagued with artificialness and plastic packaging wrapped in a neat bow and sold for mass consumption, Amy Winehouse came through like a whirlwind of honesty and a breath of fresh air. She was the gobby girl from next door we could all relate too, she was real, spoke her mind and she did not suffer fools gladly, as Kapadia’s film shows in abundance.
As the film continues on, with the strands of Amy’s life being placed out in front of us in a linear fashion. Even if the benefit of hindsight was not on our side, it is only too clear to see the inevitable and devastating conclusion far before its grim realisation, which makes this story all the more shattering.
Summary: Beautiful, honest, intimate and devastating. A moving tribute to one of the greatest musical talents of a generation: Amy Winehouse.