Amy Winehouse was a flare, burning with such unparalleled heat but for that characteristic short, and unsustainable, burst. Asif Kapadia's documentary of the singer's devastatingly short life and smaller body of work immerses you in, bathing you in the warm and stable beginnings of a girl whose past had left her with wounds and the gift of an amazing talent as an outlet. Before, what exposing the dark truths, that for reasons unknown, this clearly damaged, fragile addict was dragged into a self perpetuating cycle of media scrutiny and abuse that almost surely secured her fate.
Kapadia takes a wealth of early footage from Amy's lifelong friends to paint a portrait of a girl with issues, surround her parents divorce and years of her father's infidelity who found an outlet in jazz singing. Chapati's technique is beautifully organic, weaving hundreds of threads of footage together and to utilise the disembodied voices of the people in Amy's life to commentate and give insight to her private life and the intimate moments that barely escaped the scrutiny at its fever pitch. There's a strange phenomenon watching Amy; in the early parts of the film, prior to her career defining "Black to Black" you're tricked, perhaps because you don't want it to be true, that the end of the film must be her untimely passing.
Kapadia's film hits its stride when the element's that would ultimately kill her began to converse. It's unfortunate that I share the name with the worse person who entered her life; Blake Fielder-Civil. This criminal, nihilistic, money and life sponge may have brought Amy some joy in their relationship, but ultimately he lead a girl with an addictive personality toward the most addictive drugs on the planet. Their first break up; left Amy in her most vulnerable state and toward her first intervention. All the friends who loved her most dearly tried to get her to come clean and the moment that now resonates in pop culture because of the titanic hit charts this moment. Amy said she would go to rehab if her father thought she should, and despite all the evidence that she was an addict, he told her that she was fine.
Amy Winehouse's father Mitchell could possibly be the worst parent that has ever walked the face of the earth. It could not be any more evident that while Amy-TM was alive and he was living the good life he did not want to jeopardise that. Finally, upon the release of her gargantuan record with Mark Ronson – “Back to Black”the media, sniffing out a car crash, berated this one time jazz singer into a psychosis. From the Grammy win, to the body bag exiting her London flat, the constant aesthetic of the footage is the strobe of camera flash.
Amy will do two things. Firstly, it will make you feel worse that such an incredible talent, with unparalleled soul could not get it together. Secondly, with the toxicity of her environment (paparazzi and media harassment; drug addicted, self-destructive partner; oblivious, weak and stupefied mother; and a simply cancerous, apathetic, vile leech of a father) it's a miracle that she lived as long as she did.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Asif Kapadia
Film Editing by: Chris King