Amy Winehouse was a tremendously talented, highly idiosyncratic performer whose life and early death panned out in the public eye like an inevitable tragedy. It’s a sad story that lends itself suitably to a documentary film, and here Asif Kapadia (who did such a memorable job with Senna recently) attempts to shed some light on the factors which contributed to her dying of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of just 27 years old. Given how the singer became such a symbolic figure in many ways, examining her life and death also works very effectively as a wider think-piece on themes such as the double-edged sword of family support, the intrusive and invasive practices of the British tabloid press, and the challenges and pitfalls of substance addiction and abuse.

Perhaps one of the saddest things about Winehouse was how her self-destruction was both tragic yet also riveting – it felt like she was a Greek tragedy playing out in real life in front of us. Watching this film is a similar experience, as depressing as it might be it’s also a life that was lived in such broad strokes that it’s impossible to look away. Her gifts as a singer and songwriter were unquestionable, and the rarely-seen live footage of her here showcases her tremendous stage presence and charisma, but it’s exactly that magnetism that courted such media attention, and the pressures of celebrity and her spiraling problems with various addictions seem like an inevitable other side to that coin. The very things that made her special also made her a target, and this film intimately makes that clear.

AMY
An achingly sad depiction of the destruction of a modern celebrity8
Avoiding simple conclusions, and examining various different factors that led to her death9
Correctly identifying the British press as being a primary reason though9
The odd feeling that all of us were somehow complicit in her death, and maybe even this film is part of that7
The talent, uniqueness and pure human charisma of the woman shines through all this10
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • It feels weird applying these rules to a documentary film
9Overall Score

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