R, 128 minutes
I’m at an age where one stops paying much attention to the popular music of the day, preferring the sounds of our youth. So I experienced the swift rise and early death of singer Amy Winehouse from a distance, where it’s easier to smirk and make light of another person’s tragedy.
“Amy” is a great documentary film because, like the best of its kind, it can take a subject that appears alien or even laughable to us, and make it seem immediate and very human. This portrait of a tender soul who had it all, and lost it all, is heartbreaking and fascinating.
Director Asif Kapadia (“Senna”) shows great empathy toward Winehouse, but never drops the journalistic mode of exploration to simply genuflect and celebrate. It shows the moody, bluesy singer in all her amazing glory, and pitiable squalor.
There are the usual testimonials from people who knew her, and plenty of interviews with Amy herself. What makes it truly revelatory are the many private videos she and her loved ones shot, talking freely without posterity looking over their shoulder. Here Winehouse reveals her innermost self – including her prediction, while still a struggling teen artist, that she will not bear fame very well.
How dreadfully right she was.