I may not know a whole lot about Amy Winehouse (I was only thirteen when ‘Back to Black’ was released, though that didn’t stop me from dramatically singing along to Tears Dry On Their Own) – but I do know a lot about addiction, which for me was the main reason to go and see Asif Kapadia’s documentary AMY last night.
All too often, directors fail to portray people who suffer from addiction as more than an addict. Asif Kapadia does not fall in this category. He succeeded in making his documentary live up to its name. AMY is about Amy – not about Amy, the addict.
The film shows us Amy’s life from her early childhood right until her death. It is filled with unseen footage, paired with commentary from a variety of people who played a role in Amy’s life. Not only do we hear from her parents, but also from her childhood friends, bodyguards and some industry friends. And of course we hear from Amy herself – and yes, she talks about her addiction, but she also talks about love, her songwriting process and her everlasting fear of becoming a celebrity. The most cruel case of foreshadowing takes place when Amy states that she hopes she never gets famous, because she’s sure she’ll “go mad” when that happens.
One of the strongest points of AMY is how Kapadia lets the viewer make up their own mind, finding a balance between comments that make you go ‘wow, I’m so glad Amy had this person in her life’ to ‘jeez, why are you doing this?’. And while I think it’s telling that Winehouse’s father Mitch publicly disavowed the documentary because he felt portrayed as the bad guy (when hey, at no point in the film did anyone put any words in your mouth – you all said them yourself) I do feel like sticking up for this man who had to go through the tragedy of losing his daughter in a tragic accident and who was wildly misunderstood afterwards.
First of all, it’s foolish to blame Mitch Winehouse for not fixing his daughter’s problems – the only one who could have done that was Amy herself. And secondly, I do think some of Mitch’s quotes are cut quite dubiously. Besides, the film never mentions the Amy Winehouse foundation, set up by Amy’s family to prevent the effects of alcohol and drug misuse on young people, to which Mitch Winehouse donated more than 1.5 million pounds.
So while I wholeheartedly advise you to go see AMY if you haven’t already, I also advise you to keep in mind that even a director as gifted as Kapadia cannot do a story as complicated as Amy’s justice. Go see the film, enjoy it, talk about it with your loved ones, read some more about addiction and make up your own mind. I added some links below, in case you want to read more on Mitch Winehouse’s points of view.