Amy (2015) is the new documentary directed by Asif Kapadia (Senna), about the late British singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse. With unseen archival footage and unheard songs, Amy Winehouse tells her story in her own words. If I was asked to sum up this film in three words, without a doubt it would be, heartbreaking, beautiful and true.
The film starts with a home video recording of young, cheeky Amy singing “Happy Birthday” in the style of Marilyn Monroe to her friend in 1998 and ends with footage of her friends and family crying at her funeral in 2011. The way that Kapadia put the interviews, videos, unseen photographs and beautiful lyrics of Amy’s, together to show her inspirational rise to her heartbreaking fall.
Throughout the film, we discover the reasons behind Amy’s award winning lyrics and her drug and alcohol addictions. The music phenomenon became very famous very quickly, but it is shown in Kapadia’s film that this was what Amy did not want at all. She was just a young girl who wanted to create music and thought her music would help her resolve her issues. Unfortunately, her becoming this celebrity was possibly what pushed her too far.
The interviews from Amy’s close friend’s Lauren Gilbert and Juliette Ashby, Winehouse’s first manager, Nick Shymansky give the audience their view on what happened to Amy Winehouse and what they had to go through to try and help her. They provide material which shows the artist in her prime before her fame really kicked in.
Kapadia has also included interviews with Amy’s father Mitchell Winehouse and her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil. Mitchell Winehouse has expressed that he is very outraged at how he has been presented in the documentary and says that his views on not sending Amy to rehab have been twisted for the camera, although the footage is exactly how Mitchell had said it.
This is also reflected in Amy’s song rehab with the lyric “I ain’t got the time, And if my daddy thinks I’m fine”. In an interview, Asif Kapadia said that he likes to go into his documentaries not knowing much about the person he is documenting so that he doesn’t have any bias opinions and can then show the story exactly how it should be shown and not how other people think it should be.
A certain section which Kapadia focuses on is how the people around Amy didn’t realize at first how depressed and troubled she was from a young age. Amy herself didn’t really know that she was unwell because she just felt that music made it all better. Most of Amy’s lyrics in the film are shown on screen as she is singing them. This really set into perspective how much the lyrics meant to her, as you heard her explaining the meaning of them before they were sung. Reading them really made them sink in and you could understand her and where she was coming from.
Things started to change for Amy when she met her husband to be, Blake Fielder-Civil and moved to Camden, north London in 2005. Fielder-Civil introduces Amy to heroin and cocaine and tells her that “life is short”. It doesn’t take long for the couple to be completely addicted to the drugs and for it to take over their lives. The couple were truly in love. Amy would have done anything for Blake and in one part of the film, Fielder-Civil says that after one night when the couple were high, Fielder-Civil cut his hand and Amy said “whatever you do, I’ll do”, and she cut her own hand for him.
After Winehouse and Fielder-Civil split, Amy released “Love Is A Losing Game”. Although she originally produced the song back in 2006, the meaning to the lyrics really relate to the couple’s relationship and how she felt about the way it ended. All of Amy’s lyrics told her story and all of them were true to how she felt, no matter what the situation. She could really share her emotions through music and she did it brilliantly.
One of the most piercingly sad moments of the film was right after Amy had been announced to have won a Grammy award and had been clean from drugs for few weeks. Amy calls her friend Juliette to the stage after the announcement and says to her, “this is boring without drugs”. A beautiful moment is very soon broken and as an audience, you are again reminded of how troubled the poor artist truly was and that she couldn’t enjoy her success because of what she was going through.
Kapadia also includes some very harrowing photographs of Amy, which had me looking away from the screen in tears. They showed private photographs of Amy and Blake taking drugs together and portraits of Amy in which you can see how her eating disorder was changing her appearance as it got worse. But there are also very spectacular moments of the film as we see many live performances of Amy’s great work and you can see she is only herself when she is on the stage. Music was mainly what she lived for, she just wanted to make the people around her happy and then create music alongside that, which then made her happy, until the fame and pressures got ahead of her.
The film is really just the perfect way to tribute Amy Winehouse, as you come out of the documentary feeling sorry for her and the life she had to go through, and it’s really brought her story back to life and you just appreciate her music even more then you might ever had done before.