I had been putting off seeing Asif Kapadia’s Amy for a while despite some friends recommending it. People told me it was a sad documentary and I believed them. After all, Amy Winehouse’s story is a sad one and a narrative that is becoming more common amongst young people. A talented, young person gets caught up in alcohol, drugs and other bad habits and eventually pays the ultimate price despite various warnings.
Indeed the young singer’s story is sad and the combination of drugs, alcohol and bulimia did take her life too young. However, the documentary itself was not completely caught up in the Back to Black singer’s death.
At least, certainly the first part of the two hour documentary did well to track the singer’s path to intense stardom and the friends she made along the way. We are shown those first instances were people began to appreciate the tremendous talent she had for singing and songwriting. Salaam Remi, a producer of Winehouse’s music, summarised her jazz-inspired music style well as the documentary quotes him telling her label, “Even if you dropped her, I would pay for her to come to my house and sing, because that shit fucking moves me.”
That is exactly what the film helped me realise, her music really is moving. Kapadia’s film highlights how this young woman’s lyrics and voice combine to create an artist who seemed to have decades of experience in songwriting and hardship. This fact is teased out with some great editing, highlighting depression, relationship and life troubles that inspired some of Amy’s greatest musical achievements.
Whilst the second half of the film does heavily portray Amy’s struggles with crack cocaine, heroin and mental health issues, it is done with a certain amount of tact. For example, some television broadcasters and newspapers’ negative approach towards Amy’s struggles showed little concern for her wellbeing and revealed how uncaring some media outlets can be. Another harrowing moment occurs as we are told moments after Amy won her Grammy, she told her friend everything was ‘boring’ without drugs, revealing just how far her addiction run.
Whilst her death is sad, it is no reason to avoid this documentary. It offers a good insight into the life and death of Amy Winehouse. Moreover, it highlights the struggle many have with drugs, alcohol and mental health issues. Despite the grave ending, I am happy Kapadia’s documentary highlighted just how great an artist Winehouse was and continues to be.