Review: Amy

What a waste.

That was my father’s reaction to hearing the news about Amy Winehouse years ago. I was in his apartment, when he called me into his room. He was watching the news, I think it was CNN, and when I arrived, I saw the headline “Amy Winehouse found dead.” I remember feeling so disappointed because my father and I were fans of music and at the time, I heard stories of her troubles with drugs and drink and I echoed my father’s sentiment.

Photo by A24

When I caught on to Asif Kapadia’s documentary, simply titled Amy, I couldn’t resist because I was a fan of Ms. Winehouse’s music but I knew so little about her and what led her down her road to ruin. I saw her story unfold from those who knew her best, her parents, friends, managers, producers, collaborators, news footage, photographs, home movies, documented material of any kind and it all went back to what my dad said at the time of when she died.

Looking back, I remembered that she had a penchant for self-destruction going back to when she was a young girl; the documentary begins with her before she made it big, when the world didn’t know she had that kind of talent, when she was innocent yet at the same time subtly troubled and the film explores why she was troubled because of the turbulent relationship between her parents, her early teenage years she had bouts of depression and bulimia; audiences will see how gifted she was yet at the same time see the curses that came with those gifts.

I found Amy’s approach to tell the subject’s story to the audience crafty and mesmerizing. Utilizing material obtained from the public media and the lives of her personal friends and family painted a vivid and tragic tableau about a troubled soul with sultry and smooth vocal prowess.

As I watched Ms. Winehouse’s rise and fall in this documentary I went back to the point of the film where her demons took root and I found myself questioning the integrity of her family and close friends; just asking why didn’t they do something to help her earlier? Amy Winehouse was a gifted singer; she had it, a gift that needed to be nurtured early but by the time things got serious it was too late, damage done. Again, my father, “what a waste.”

Then again, as you watched the documentary unfold you saw the seeds being sewn, the signs indicating who this person would become and even though you knew that the proverbial ship was going down, it didn’t matter because for an instant I reconnected with my appreciation and admiration for her musical ability and it was the demons in her past that made her the person, the singer, she became.

Her friends, family, admirers introduced audiences to her through this documentary that just told it in a way mirrors her singing/songwriting style, which can be described as raw, intimate, tragic and I applaud Asif Kapadia for Amy. The storytelling method was simple yet distinct; it slowly and it explained how Amy’s rise to stardom could only result in her downfall and Amy was narrated by the people closest to her, but inevitably, forgive my bluntness, failed to help her.

Amy is must-see cinema. It offers a great sense of nostalgia, loss, appreciation and you just remember how special someone’s influence was yet it leaves you simply powerless in the end. I reiterate my father: “What a waste.”

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