Friday, 18 September 2015

Film Review: ‘Amy’

by Rebecca Emerton

Directed by Asif Kapadia, the new documentary Amy has created quite an intriguing comeback for the world-renowned singer Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27. The film uses footage and interviews/chat show appearances throughout Amy’s life, showing her bubbly, young personality in North London, right through to the very last moments of her life. The moving stories by friends and family reveal a part of her life that much of the general public never knew existed, constantly being spoken about in derogatory terms by the media at any and every opportunity. Kapadia portrays the singer in an emotionally engaging manner, delving deep into the moments of vulnerability and helplessness following her divorce and the death of her grandmother with whom she was extremely close. 

The film shows her as a naïve young girl with a passion for jazz and other music, keen to develop her own songs derived from her own experiences, particularly spurred by her father, Mitch, leaving the family, which deeply affected her. The private video footage shot by friends sees her landmark style of feline eyeliner develop, the kind of makeup with a slightly unprofessional and slapdash look.

Early on in the film, a talk show interview recorded the following quote which acts as a chilling sense of foreboding and has now become one of the most powerful quotation in the documentary, “I don’t think I’m gonna be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it” she said “I would probably go mad”.

The beginning of the downward spiral was when she met her soon-to-be husband Blake Fielder-Civil, the man that introduced her to drugs as a coping mechanism as well as a kick. Following this there are many hard-hitting scenes that show Amy whilst being affected by these drugs and the viewer begins to see the impact of these on her life. The drugs combined with her eating disorder, bulimia, caused her many problems, including seizures and strong effects on her character. 

Kapidia portrays Amy’s father as somewhat of a bad guy, returning into her life to manage her career and decide what shows she did when she was incapable of making a decision. Following the release of the film, Mitch Winehouse complained the film portrayed an incorrect image of her life and himself; however, it is clear that from the footage (taken by friends – and clearly unedited) that this view of him is not without cause. He encouraged Amy not to go to rehab, despite her friends' protests due to her serious state of health, because he wanted her to continue making money in her career. Amy sings about this in her hit single ‘Rehab’ – “I ain’t got the time because my daddy thinks I’m fine”.

The most shocking moment in the film is when Amy is essentially kidnapped to fly to America for a concert that she had previously said she did not wish to attend – she proceeded to get incredibly drunk the night before so that she didn’t have to perform.  The footage of the performance shows her all over the place and stumbling, with horrendous booing from the crowd that clearly had no idea about her health.

Following a clean break on an island, Amy returned to start afresh; the viewer is told of her ringing her friends, begging to start again. A couple of days later, Amy died in the evening, found with two large bottles of Vodka. The state of her health following the drugs and bulimia meant that she could die at any point when consuming alcohol or drugs.

The film really clarifies the impact that media has on people with talent, and how it can break people who may have appeared strong. The documentary clearly showed how the media is keen to make a good headline, but will never delve into the reasons for the photo they acquire.

Her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil spoke of Amy saying “the world wanted a piece of her” and sadly, that’s what inevitably broke her.

If you have not, I strongly urge you to watch the documentary and I truly believe that it will allow you to understand more clearly why this once beautiful young girl with a love for music was transformed into the broken woman we saw in the media.

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