Oh, this is a sad one. Amy is a 2015 documentary by Asif Kapadia detailing the preternaturally talented Amy Winehouse’s rise to stardom and tragic plight with addiction. It’s currently streaming on Amazon.
This was a good but not great documentary, but as with so many less than perfect documentaries the subject matter is sufficiently fascinating to hold your interest. In this case it’s Amy’s wildly intense personality that shines through- by the end of the film it’s clear that when she felt something, she felt it purely, and felt it hard. Unfortunately for her this was coupled with profound alcohol and drug addiction, which the film sets forth in painful detail.
Stylistically it’s a patchwork of home videos (including one of a teenage Amy singing happy birthday) and interviews with her loved ones and associates, including her father and ex-husband Blake Fielder, with whom she shared an amour fou. Their passionate, tormented relationship was fodder for the famous Back to Black album and in many ways would be her undoing.
Another interesting point of the film is that Amy was, inherently, a “jazz snob.” This is perhaps why her music is difficult to categorize. It’s not quite jazz, not quite pop, and before her untimely death she was inclined to branch out to more experimental music forms. It’s quite tragic to imagine the unborn music that died with her.
Her eating disorders- certainly bulimia and perhaps anorexia- are also examined. Her weight fluctuated wildly but by the time she appeared in the United States she presents as all of BMI 16, and I believe she was even thinner when she died of alcohol poisoning. I had to wonder how the constant vomiting, alcohol, and smoking never seemed to impact her voice which was nothing short of a force of nature.
I realized after watching this film that I rarely hear Amy’s music on the radio. This surprises me as her music, while perhaps not for everyone, is timeless. If anyone has a theory for why this is, please share.
So all in all the film is highly recommended. Even if you’re not particularly interested in her life story, you will be once you’ve seen the film. The batterings of her life- family, love, loss, compulsion- are something we can all relate to even on a lesser scale, and illustrate her as quintessentially human beneath an extraordinary musical gift.