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Review - Amy

By midlandsmovies, Nov 11 2015 06:56PM

Amy (2015) Dir. Asif Kapadia

The tragic death of singer songwriter Amy Winehouse at the tender age of 27 (joining the elusive age-based “death” club that also has Cobain, Hendrix, Morrison & Joplin as members) is the focus of this documentary from the director of the excellent Senna. Another biographical film, there are next to no talking heads – a splattering of voiceovers from friends could be archive material or separate interviews – which means the images and narrative constructed from a wide variety of footage tell simply of a story about an extremely talented musician coping with her demons.

It begins with home video footage of the young diva Winehouse smoking pot and practicing her singing – her voice already a unique tone that would only get more recognisable as her career flourished – and soon she had the record industry interested. With an authentic voice, her disdain for any superficial pop stars is clear to see from her earliest interviews, with Winehouse never being afraid to gob-off about her contemporaries in her acerbic London accent.

Before long though the cracks start to show as an unhealthy relationship with her husband Blake Fielder-Civil who introduces her to harder and harder drugs (before going to jail) also highlights her extreme nature and huge insecurities. Footage with her jazz idol Tony Bennett shows how much she respected her influences, but other footage of a stumbling and rambling Winehouse in a drunken rage at a festival in Eastern Europe is beyond sad.

Deep conflicts with her aspirational but career-obsessed father push Winehouse further into substance abuse as her drinking takes its toll but conversely it sometimes sparked creative streaks resulting in songs like Rehab & Back to Black. With the press waiting for the next paper-selling incident, Winehouse slowly becomes a self-parody as her genius takes second place to her wild partying lifestyle and her friends distance themselves from their childhood pal.

The film intersperses her whirlwind and hectic life with incredible footage of Amy's performances – from her award winning American Grammy night to smaller intimate shows – but the self-doubting singer cannot shake her loose ways as drink, drugs and the pressures of fame ultimately seal her heartbreaking fate.

A superb film, it is comparable to the Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck but given that I was far less a fan of Winehouse (both her antics and music) the film is all the more impressive for making me feel sympathy for the tough life and unpleasant circumstances of her demise. Fans of Winehouse will enjoy the music and exclusive footage which fully fleshes out her wayward character but it's also her critics who may just find some compassion for the unfortunate vocalist who had the talent but couldn’t rid herself of the addictions that finally saw her flame extinguished far too early.

8/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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