April 10, 2016
Director: Asif Kapadia
With: Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Tony Bennett
Runtime: 128 minutes
Academy Awards, National Society of Film Critics Awards: Best Documentary; 39 other award wins, 40 nominations
“Amy Winehouse’s star shines so brightly in Amy, a treasure trove of found footage of the late artist.” – James Verniere, Boston Herald
What makes Asif Kapadia’s documentary, Amy, a devastating don’t-miss dazzler is the way he lays out her story without editorializing. Kapadia shows us the transformation of this mischief-loving Jewish girl from North London into a peerless interpreter of jazz and soul, ready to take her place with such greats as Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett.
Kapadia goes to the source. Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at age 27, left behind a motherlode of recorded personal details. There are photos and personal videos shot by family, friends, and her loyal manager that are deftly woven into the narrative. Amy’s youth, like her talent, explodes off the screen. That’s what makes her public decline, brutally recorded by the media, so gut-wrenching.
Kapadia does editorialize on Amy’s dad, Mitch Winehouse, and her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, where it is suggested that both contributed to her precipitous decline.
Credit Kapadia, though, for not overplaying the victim card. Kapadia wisely uses Amy’s songs, with lyrics on-screen to trace her story, from her early days to her final concert in Belgrade, a month before she died, when she went on stage drunk and never sang a note, consumed by her various demons. But one can’t turn away, because the film has made Amy so touchingly, recognizably human.