Asif Kapadia’s Amy is the ultimate tribute to the musical genius that was Amy Winehouse. The documentary film is composed almost entirely of footage and photographs of the jazz singer, candidly captured by friends and family throughout her tragically short life.
The poor quality of the images creates the nostalgic impression of a home video, full of deeply personal moments Amy shared with those around her. This not only imbues the film with an air of unaffected honesty, but might go so far as to elicit mild discomfort in the viewer. These are, after all, snippets of Amy’s most private experiences, offered up for the consumption of strangers, like some irresistible sweetmeat served to satisfy society’s voracious, voyeuristic appetite. The various clips are seamlessly stitched together to create a beautifully cohesive film, which sees Amy embark on her career in music. We follow her though all the ups and downs that eventually shaped her as one of the greatest artists of her generation.
Amy’s story, in all its tragic detail, is narrated by her friends and family to provide a unique insight into her life. The choice to use only the voice of the interviewees makes for a refreshing change in a film of this genre; it allows the feelings of the testimonies to be appreciated more fully. But there is something undeniably heart-wrenching about listening as the young woman’s life is discussed and dissected in retrospect; the tone of helplessness of the voices is truly poignant.
Apart from honouring Amy’s memory in a singularly sensitive and sympathetic manner, the film could easily double up as a drugs deterrent. It exposes the raw and ravaging effects of substance abuse, completely stripping it of any conceivable celebrity glamour. Kapadia’s film draws a very deliberate and direct link between Amy’s struggle with drugs and her involvement with Blake Fielder-Civil, who is painted in a particularly negative light.
Amy Winehouse was ultimately a victim of her own success, buckling under the pressure of others’ expectations. Amy serves as a reminder of human perversity, suggesting that, as with so much great art, it was Amy’s suffering that led her to create such inspired work. Given the scope and splendour of her talent, one can’t help but wonder what she might have achieved were she still with us today.
Amy is released on 3rd July 2015.
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Watch the trailer for Amy here: