As so many had to be with the singer herself, be patient with Amy. Spanning over two hours, Asif Kapadia’s new documentary explores the life and career of jazz singer Amy Winehouse. Incorporating archive footage, home movies and voice-over interviews with those entangled in her life, Amy focussed on the talent and troubles that consumed the star. The film focusses on her relationships, her career and her personality as well as studying the addictions and demons that plagued her. Battling drug and alcohol dependency problems along with an eating disorder, Amy Winehouse also had to deal with a constant harassment from the red letter press for the last few years of her life. Her unstable relationships and behaviours all played out in front of our nation until her sudden death in July 2011. Amy looks at its subject through a fair and truthful lens; romanticising her talents and respecting her art whilst also opening up about her challenging and confrontational attitude towards life. Opinions of Winehouse will vary but Amy points out that you can not deny her ferocity. Her passion for jazz and pure music consumes the first chunk of Amy before chronology leads us down the rockier years of her short life. Exploring Amy Winehouse’s life chronologically allows us to watch her soul and body transform before us.
Amy reminds us of what lay beneath the caricature of the thick eye-liner, beehive and bones. Amy is a respectful and honest tribute to an addict, a musician and a deeply complex human being. Wisely using only voice-over interview, Amy keeps us in the visual presence of Winehouse almost all the time. Sometimes it feels as if Kapadia has relied too heavily on the archive footage and occasionally the film lingers for too long on a still or slow motion image. As irritating as this occasionally is, Amy builds to a beautiful ending which neither tried to explain or define her passing. Amy would benefit from a little bit of tightening up here and there but for the most part it consumes and captivates – a reminder of Amy’s influence over mainstream jazz/pop and her profound impact on those she came into contact with. I think Winehouse herself would approve of Amy and its bolshy, blunt atmosphere which reflects its protagonist – honouring her vibrant, determined spirit. To be frank, I think the film’s frankness would have impressed the ‘Frank’ singer…quite frankly.
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