I took a troubled track, my odds are stacked, I go back to black. This poet, this tortured soul will find a way to pull at your heart-strings in Asif Kapadia’s documentary Amy, the story of Amy Winehouse’s short-lived life. It is a documentary laced with her jazzy tunes, layered with moments of joy and an omniscient observation of her grief.
Amy is reminiscent of a rock-n’-roll Holly Golightly. Thick winged eyeliner, a streak of blonde fringe among coiffed black hair and a cigarette in hand singing Moon River. Kapadia successfully lulls the audience into the film and allows us to see a candid view of Amy from childhood to her final years. And it is easy to fall in love. Her smile and wit alone will generate a soft spot. Add her singing to this and it is difficult to not be on Amy’s side as the journey unfolds down the troubled path.
We watch a charismatic, yet insecure, young woman become confused and misguided as the documentary progresses. While Kapadia focuses heavily on Amy and her music, two very important relationships add to the depth of the story. He reveals how Amy is pulled into a life of substance-abuse and unwanted fame by her boyfriend and abusive father. While intriguing, the story is chilling and reminds its audience of the need to be loved. Kapadia presents a cherubic young Amy become the frail figure of fame she was publicised as later in her career. Even so, the film is depicted in a way that we remain sensitive to her struggles rather than judgemental.
No, it does not end in happily-ever-afters. However, as it is delicately depicted, the film captures our hearts, perhaps shedding light on the best and worst of humanity. It is cathartic with a quiet hope that grows ever stronger that some good will came. And perhaps it does, as she leaves her legacy in jazz. The film neither creates criticism nor glorification of Amy. It simply reveals her life to permit an understanding of who she was behind the fame, the drugs and rumours of rehab. In her own words “I’m not a girl trying to be a star, I’m just a girl that sings”.