Movie Reviews

Review: 'Amy'

By Zaki JufriMovies - 27 August 2015 12:00 AM | Updated 31 August 2015

Review: 'Amy'

Our Rating

4/5 Stars

Perhaps the most prophetic conversation in the new documentary film by Asif Kapadia about Amy Winehouse was when the late singer was answering a question from a journalist on how she might deal with fame early on in her career.

“I don’t think I could handle it,” Winehouse said, “I would probably go mad.”

Indeed. Something tragic did happened. The singer died from alcohol poisoning in her London home in July 2011. Like Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and many others before, Winehouse grappled with her addictions, depression and bulimia.

Through exclusively procured never-before-seen archival and concert footage, candid photographs, voicemail messages, scribbled lyrics, interviews with her friends, family, collaborators and enablers, Kapadia has assembled an exhaustive look behind the curtain – all streamed through an immersive timeline.

Kapadia, who directed the stunning 2010 Formula One racing documentary ‘Senna’, carefully takes you through the journey of Winehouse’s career —  from her early discovery as a fresh-faced teenaged singer, label signings, creative explorations, love, fame, her transformation into the gin-soaked tatooed chanteuse most known her to be, her unravelling… and ultimately, her untimely demise.

A young Amy Winehouse 

Through Winehouse’s life, Kapadia takes us on a look at what most would dream about – to become a star—and how that dream would come true for one young woman and how it eventually becomes a nightmare.

The story starts off on a light note. We see Winehouse early in her career, singing in dark bars, baring her soul; and as the celebrity machinery tightens its grip, her life unravels.

You can even feel a sense foreboding doom when Winehouse meets Blake Fielder-Civil whom she married in 2007. Their union would go on a downward trajectory into the most self-destructive chapter in the singer’s life.

And then’s there’s the heart-breaking scenes of her life falling apart and becoming a public spectacle. You can’t help but feel sorry for Winehouse or just reach out, grab her and take her away to somewhere safe. 

What’s insightful are the recollections of three of Winehouse’s closest friends Juliette Ashby, Lauren Gilbert; and her first manager, Nick Shymansky, who discovered her when she was 16. 

The trio provided surprising revelations, as well as video and photos of Winehouse before she became famous.

'Body and Soul' - Tony Bennett with Amy Winehouse

The movie also dives deep and unveils details of Winehouse’s immense talent — a clip of her rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, aged 16, foreshadows her stardom; producer Mark Ronson describes her writing ‘Back to Black’, perhaps one of her best songs, in a few hours and legendary crooner Tony Bennett describes her as a “true jazz singer” and even insisting her memory be preserved in the company of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

Kapadia plays devil’s advocate. He remains objective throughout this portrait, presenting both sides of Winehouse’s story – the one we read and see in the media, and the other through personal recollections. He leaves it up to us to decide whether Winehouse’s life would have changed course if she or the people she was with had made the right decisions.

Kapadia’s powerful and intimate documentary of the singer, who some consider to be THE voice of her generation, makes it easier to empathise with her troubles and it also changes our perception of her which was largely distorted by the media, particularly during the latter years of her short life.

Definitely a must-watch for music fans.

‘Amy’ opens 27 August 2015