The documentary Amy, about the life (and not the death) of Amy Winehouse, is by no means an easy film to watch. By the end of the film, or hopefully even sooner, the involved and patient viewer will fall under the spell of Asif Kapadia’s powerful elegy.
This is precisely because the viewer becomes complicit in the continual mistreatment of Amy Winehouse, especially by the men surrounding her, and quite often, by herself.
The song Rehab, to take one example, used to be something of a laugh. Hahaha, Amy Winehouse had a song called Rehab and then she did drugs and alcohol, should have gone to Rehab. The film even features comedians like Jay Leno making many of these same observations.
But Kapadia achieves a very scary result through not much more than a little bit of context, followed by highlighting the lyrics on screen.
Because the next time through, hearing and fully experiencing the song Rehab as something else, when her Daddy does think that she’s fine, it sent real chills down this reviewer’s spine, and rivals any horror movie sequence for real scares.
Indeed, Amy’s father Mitchell has come out and said that he is unhappy with how he was portrayed in the film, and to that we say “well, you should be!”
Though the director Kapadia does not insert a clear bias into the film, and does not moralize. Yet the people who mistreated Amy throughout her far too brief life come to the forefront, starting with her father and extending to her string of boyfriends and especially her husband Blake Fielder-Civil come across as true enablers, leading the monumentally talented Amy to an early grave.
The thing about Amy is that we all know the end of the movie coming in: Amy dies young. But what we don’t know is the situations and circumstances that lead her there.
Perhaps we still don’t, but Amy leads us into a discussion of the nature of the truth, and Kapadia is masterful behind the camera. He takes what was likely a massive amount of footage and whittling it down to the bare essentials, and speaking with the right people.
Unfortunately, the one person that could have shed the most light on the film is gone, and while Amy paints a vivid and clear portrait of the artist that was far too misunderstood throughout her life, one wishes almost that it didn’t have to be made. Because the film highlights just how much of a waste the entire situation became, irreparably, and hopefully makes us think about how we treat the important people in our lives, particularly women, to ensure that we do not become enablers ourselves.
To quote an Amy Winehouse lyric “I told you, I was trouble, you know that I’m no good”; the tragedy is that Amy herself did not know enough, and it appears quite early on in her life steered a course, one from which she could not avoid. A fucking waste.