This film is causing some unwelcome anxiety for critics and viewers alike. Does the unprecedented access director Asif Kapadia (Senna, The Sheep Thief) clearly had mimic the unprecedented access the general public had to Amy Winehouse’s life when she was alive? Is the film therefore simply a posthumous continuation of the press’ assault on her life? Is Kapadia’s biopic of our beloved Amy self-serving? Is he walking a thin line between insight and exploitation?
It doesn’t really matter. As complex as the debate can inevitably get around a film with a protagonist like Winehouse, all that really matters is the film gives us numerous moments – albeit brief – of sobering clarity into what a complicated lady she really was. She was prescribed Seroxat at 14 (a highly addictive and controversial anti-depressant), she had chronic bulimia, and her delicate constitution was clearly further shaken but just how personal her songs all were. She was literally torturing herself by continually performing the same material.
Kapadia splices together old interviews, voicemail recordings, cell phone footage and stills to help us navigate through the sea of opinions and claims that haunted Winehouse on a daily basis for the duration of her short career. It’s difficult to watch this film and not spare a thought for Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Michael Jackson and even Princess Diana, and this is where opinions are likely to divide most starkly, thanks to varying levels of understanding when it comes to the topics of depression and addiction. The film does not go far enough to offer much more than a superficial explanation of Amy’s troubles here, but what it does prompt is thought around is the good old chicken and egg blame game – which came first, the celebrity or the celebrity press?
What is made infinitely clear is that as soon as Amy Winehouse became famous, time stood still. Her attitudes and approaches from this point on remained very much those of a teenager. Her resistance to reality – both personally and professionally – is what killed her. If her creative mind wasn’t making something, it was breaking something. And in the end, that something was herself.
Rest in peace Amy.
Funny yet un-sensational. Nostalgic yet desperately sad. Take tissues.
3.5 out of 5