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Monday, 1 February 2016

Amy - Dir. Asif Kapadia

Yes it's good, but only to a point. Asif Kapadia's overlong documentary is ultimately hindered by its challenging structure and the production's relationship with Amy Winehouse's family.

The use of interviews heard over home movie and footage and photos from public appearances gives the journey through Amy's early life an impeccable and raw authenticity but there are times, particularly towards the end, when I wanted to see the faces of those talking. We don't just express emotion through the intonations of speech and Kapadia denies us from the facial expression of those involved.



A lot of the film is composed of paparazzi photographs and video used in magazines and news programmes that the film partially criticizes for the continued hounding of Amy Winehouse. It just about gets away with this for a while, but the use of footage from Amy's private funeral felt a little hypocritical and frankly uncomfortable.

Kapadia and co. initially had the co-operation of the Winehouse family but their relationship waned as the film grew critical of Amy’s father in particular. Unfortunately, its criticisms are often too broad and certain statements and decisions taken by those around Amy whilst she was alive (e.g. her father's decision to film a TV programme whilst visiting Amy in St. Lucia) are never fully explained.



Other points too are touched upon and are only approached with the benefit of hindsight. Kapadia’s position here is that the precarious condition of Amy’s health was so obvious and everybody was an idiot for not doing anything about it. It’s very easy to say that after the fact but the situation was perhaps different at the time. People never want to believe that they have or a family member has a drink or drug problem perhaps until it’s too late. Similarly, eating disorders were not as widely known about in the late 90’s as they are now, making the connection when Amy was just a teenager might not have been obvious then.

This is entirely speculation on my part and only those around Amy at the time will know for sure whether they could and should have done better by her.



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