Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom/USA, 2015. Film4, On The Corner Films. Produced by James Gay-Rees. Music by Antonio Pinto. Film Editing by Chris King. Academy Awards 2015. Boston Film Critics Awards 2015. National Board of Review Awards 2015. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2015. Washington Film Critics Award 2015.
The tragically short life of a phenomenally talented singer is given exquisite treatment in this heartfelt documentary by Asif Kapadia. He chronicles the life of Amy Winehouse from childhood hopeful to superstar songstress, followed by her tragic downfall via drug and alcohol addiction. It’s neither a saintly biopic of a victim nor is it an exploitation of a trainwreck: Kapadia includes footage from Mitch Winehouse‘s TV special and a trashy MTV program as a way to make it clear that his film is neither of these extremes. Rather it takes a sensitive approach to both her triumphs and her woes, filling the soundtrack with her incredible voice (including previously unheard demo tracks on which she provides an incredibly pure sound) as a constant reminder of this woman’s talent. Before she was overtaken by substances, she actually worked hard and enjoyed being good at what she did; a delightful sequence of watching her record a duet with Tony Bennett is a great example of what made her so endearing and what was lost. The greatest woe in any tragic narrative, however, is timing, and what really did Winehouse her worst turn it is that at the point that she needs to take a break from working and get better in rehab that her star ascends to worldwide fame and opportunities come that she cannot turn down. Working through fatigue and her destructive relationship with husband Blake Fielder seem to have been a major catalyst for her habits; a concert in Belgrade where she arrives on stage and refuses to sing is absolutely terrifying, and is how we know we are coming to the end of a short and troubled life. Rich with rarely seen home movie footage, the movie could use a few more details than it includes (members of her family are given a very hands-off treatment), but it’s a great tribute to this terrific artist.