Cannes Film Festival: Amy

Directed by Asif Kapadia
Starring Amy Winehouse
In UK Cinemas July 3rd, 2015

by Joanna Orland

Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary is a devastating look at the British singer’s rise to fame and ultimate demise in 2011 at age 27.

Kapadia has humanized Amy Winehouse more than any other media to date.  He has gained access to a wealth of material from home movies to behind-the-scenes media footage, to paint a very complex picture of the singer.  These videos and photos, many very personal, along with audio interviews of her friends and family, are edited together seamlessly to tell the singer’s story.

It’s not just a linear story, but a very intimate one.  Archival footage of Amy talking to the camera, along with candid shots of her unaware, really allow for the singer’s personality, demons and inner thoughts to shine through on screen.  Kapadia clearly has an opinion of who is to blame for this girl’s troubles, and he makes a very strong case – perhaps why Amy’s father Mitch is distancing himself from this documentary.

Shocking to watch in a linear fashion is Amy Winehouse’s decline from her fresh-faced musical debut to her bulimic, alcoholic and drug addict frame of her later years.  Even more shocking is the behaviour of the people Amy surrounded herself with.  She did have friends who tried desperately to help her, but between her manager, husband and father making demands of her, vulnerable Amy never stood a chance.

Suffering from bulimia since a young age, Amy eventually turned to alcohol to help deal with the pressures of fame, and her lack of a reliable family structure.  In between albums, her drinking became detrimental to her health and career, this is when her friends intervened.  Amy agreed to go to rehab only if her father Mitch said she needed to.  He said she was fine, therefore Amy never went to rehab and her biggest hit song was born.  Sadly, this was likely Amy’s best chance of getting help, and having missed it, it would only be downhill from here.

Eventually Amy met her husband Blake.  He was the drug addict and needed Amy to be one too so she would need him.  He needed her vulnerability to fund his lifestyle.  As most surely know, he eventually ended up in prison and known as “Blake incarcerated”.

When Blake went to prison, Amy did briefly get better.  Her bodyguard took her in as family and swept her away to meet his own in St. Lucia in 2010.  It was here she began to recover and became more like the Amy her friends knew and loved.  But Amy missed Mitch, as she’d always sought the love and approval of her father.  Mitch on the other hand always sought fame and fortune, never choosing to do the best thing for Amy.

It’s a tragedy that the world lost such a young talent in Amy Winehouse.  Between her self-destructive ways and those who surrounded her, the vulnerable North London girl’s fate was practically set in stone.  We can’t be quick to blame her ways or her friends and family – the media spotlight certainly played its part in all of this as well, and aren’t we all responsible for that?

Talented, self-destructive and vulnerable, Amy Winehouse makes a very emotionally exhausting documentary subject in Asif Kapadia’s heartbreakingly tragic Amy.

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