This is an incredible documentary film about an amazingly talented young woman whose life is cut tragically short by excess, abuse and celebrity.
Asif Kapadia does it again. This time round I have a deeper connection to the subject. Amy’s first album ‘Frank’ really made a huge impression on me, being a jazz fan and hearing whip smart, incredibly personal lyrics sung with the skill and talent of one blessed with a voice well beyond her years. With Kapadia’s other feature documentary, Senna, my interest in the subject was minimal but boy does he know how to get you emotionally involved. I loved Senna and equally I loved Amy. Let’s not forget Kapadia’s feature film debt The Warrior, which if you haven’t seen is definitely worth a look and is NOT a documentary.
The tragedy here unfolds before our eyes as we are (unfortunately?) privileged to witness early home videos showing the trajectory of this brightly burning candle and it is very sad. This film moved me a great deal and sat with me for a long time afterwards. The way the press hounded her and tried as hard as they could to get her to snap was criminal and it hits home how it is so easy to judge and have an opinion about a celebrity as though they are creatures in a zoo, somehow different than the rest of us and what Kapadia does brilliantly is allow the humanity to shine out of his subject.
The use of voice-overs without seeing the interviewees is brilliant, it allows the viewer to focus wholly on Amy, this is not about them, they were merely players in the show, the star was Amy and it is she who shines the brightest. Seeing her insecurities and getting a deeper understanding of this force of nature builds empathy in the viewer. On the one hand she is a scared little girl and on the other a mighty diva who isn’t shy of airing her opinions. This is the human condition, we are all contradictions who sometimes lash out with the same hand we caress our loved ones with.
Amy is a cautionary tale about fame and celebrity, and the importance of having true friends around you when the madness is in full swing. Sometimes the flame of life burns so brightly that it is extinguished sooner as it burns out, Amy joined the 27 Club along with Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.
A tragedy, but at least the music is still out there.
A must watch.