Amy (2015)

Go to rehab. Don’t say “no, no, no”.

Even at an early age, everyone around Amy Winehouse knew that she was destined for some sort of greatness. Mostly though, everybody had the feeling that said greatness would be seen through her singing and performing, live, in front of crowds, for the whole world to see. And all of those friends, well, for the most part, were tragically right. When she first got her start in the biz, Amy was considered to be the young, fresh jazz voice for a generation that, quite frankly, didn’t quite seem to know what jazz was. Her first album, “Frank”, brought her all sorts of accolades and praise, but at the same time, it also brought on a whole lot more attention and popularity that Amy may have ever wanted in the first place. Once her album started selling in huge numbers and her album started winning her awards, more and more of her personal life was being focused on, which lead a lot of the public media to speculate about what else she did when she wasn’t on the stage. Most of this had to do with her frequent battles with drug and alcohol abuse, both of which were main factors in the taking her life at the very ripe and young age of 27 in the summer of 2011.

Amy in her awkward, teenage phase.
Amy in her awkward, teenage phase.

Just like he did with Senna a few years back, director Asif Kapadia takes the whole formula of what a documentary should look, act and feel like, and turns it slightly on its head. For instance, there’s not a single talking head or person seen speaking directly to the camera for the purposes of this documentary. Of course, we can hear all of the subject’s voices and whatnot, but we never actually see them speaking to us; instead, we get a bunch of archival footage that actually does Amy the real benefit of putting us there in the scene, at the time that something was happening, and having us feel a few steps closer to Amy Winehouse herself.

And that sense of intimacy is what helps Amy move right along and feel as if there’s something to feel bad for and pity with this Winehouse figure. A lot of people, those mostly involved with the media, have probably looked at Winehouse in the past and saw her for nothing more than just another piece of grade-A talent, who was too spoiled and drugged-up beyond her days to appreciate just what sort of skill and beauty she had. In a way, you could make that same argument about almost every artist, no matter what the field may be, but it doesn’t really make it true. Sure, artists are much more talented than us, but if they’re struggling with a personal/drug problem of any kind, that doesn’t make it phony or unimportant – it just makes it, well, perhaps a bit more dramatic and focused-on.

But with Amy, Kapadia sets out to show us that deep down inside of all the hard booze, drugs, partyin’, and singin’, lied a very sweet, sincere and troubled young woman who had a wonderful voice, but ultimately, just got eaten up in her own demons.

Most people, such as myself, will initially find it hard to really gain all that much sympathy for Winehouse, but as the tale grows larger and her life gets more exciting, it becomes all too clear that her life was quite messed-up to begin with. Winehouse, despite being told she was destined for greatness, always had a problem with her appearance, and a result, was bulimic for almost all of her life. While mostly everyone around her knew about this, nobody ever seemed to do anything about it, except just pat her on the back, tell her “it’s going to be okay”, and have her record another track. Everybody around Winehouse, as the movie will have us believe, was in it solely for the movie and everything else, whether they be her own, actual issues, be pushed to the side.

Which is yes, very cliche of an artists’ life, but it’s still a very true happening that makes Amy hurt just a bit more.

Amy in her Back to Black days.
Amy in her Back to Black days.

However, if there was an issue found with Amy, it was that it seems like Kapadia misses a few notes here and there that would have definitely helped make better sense of certain aspects of Amy’s life. For example, we’re told that her father left her and her mother for another woman, when Amy was only nine years old. So why, when Amy’s name is starting to get more and more popular, does he all of a sudden show up and act as if he cares? Better yet, why does she let him into her life and not act as if he wasn’t around for her upbringing?

For some reason, Kapadia seems to bring these questions up, but never get anywhere close to actually answering them. The same goes for Amy and her on-and-off-again relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, a wild boy in his own right, but one that I still don’t hate as much as I probably should. Together, the movie makes it clear that while Fielder-Civil may have been ultimately bad for Winehouse’s own good, there’s no denying that the two loved each other beyond belief and that Amy was stuck on him since day one. In fact, this aspect of the movie, as well as Amy’s life, is perhaps the most interesting, as well emotional; so rarely do we see a tale in which a famous celebrity actually sticks by their previous love, or surprisingly, get tossed and turned around by them.

If anything, it makes you feel bad for Amy a whole lot more, but also for Fielder-Civil, which isn’t something the movie may have been going for, but either way, it kept me constantly watching.

Above it all though, what Amy shows the most is how there’s so many factors at-play as to why Winehouse died the way she did, and without anyone really there to make sense of it. Of course, there are plenty of fingers pointed in certain directions, but nobody here is the outright one to be blamed. Instead, you can just sort of push it on everyone in the world, because even though Amy had a talent beyond our wildest imagination, we may never get to see it and it’s truly a shame.

Consensus: Without any frills or cheap shots taken, Amy turns out to be a surprisingly heartfelt, if sad look inside the life of a late, great artist who could have definitely done far much better for the music world, but tragically, was stopped short. At 27, no less.

7.5 / 10

And Amy, from a day that's obviously, not very recent.
And Amy, from a day that’s obviously, not very recent.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


  1. Nice review Dan. I have had one written for this for a month or so. It’s a strong documentary and that’s coming from someone who’s not really an Amy Winehouse fan.

  2. I still can’t entirely get behind this movie. It’s interesting but I always feel like Amy Winehouse is heralded for the wrong reasons. A lot of poor choices she made were her own doing and there are better artists who deserve this kind of film treatment.

    That being said, when it focuses on the music and stories behind her lyrics, that is when the movie is at its most interesting. When it focuses on tragedy and all the people saying “If only” or “what if” then that is when I lost interest.

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