I’ve never been a diehard fan of documentary filmmaking, but I do know that there are truly elegant docos that captivate audiences. Directed by award winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia, Amy tackles the short yet legendary life of singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, sequestrating the tragedy surrounding her death in 2011 and translating it into a harrowing tribute more than worthy of an Academy Award.
The essential purpose of a documentary is to tell a good story about an interesting subject flying under the radar. Amy is essentially a big tick in this box, and is riveting and ultimately haunting. The narrative is so powerful, that the label of a documentary disappears as Amy’s life is chronicled. Much of the story is built on archive footage, a risky move that pays off, creating a sense of nostalgia and bringing us closer to Amy, and ergo, implicating us in her tragedy. Pacing is another important element of docos, and fortunately, Amy exhibits a perfect pace at just over 2 hours, even though it’s longer than most documentaries.
Amy’s background and love for jazz is given an equal amount of importance as her more popular music, and is deeply soulful and cheer-provoking, driven by her exquisite poetry. Although most of Amy’s music is respectfully used as part of the soundtrack, Antonio Pinto’s tantalising yet icy soundtrack is a huge contribution to the film. The marriage between these two soundtracks is a prime example of intelligent scoring, and also symbolises the fractured state of Amy’s self.
Ultimately, Amy is a psychological analysis of her own personality and downfall. While Amy’s struggles with drugs and alcohol are mentioned, the filmmakers are clever enough to avoid accentuating upon the cliche of drug addicted musicians. Instead, we are treated to the erosion of Amy’s warm, humorous and seductive personality, and how she suffered from very real mental disorders, including bulimia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and anorexia.
The usage of interviews from her bandmates, friends and family is expertly used to corroborate the events and mentality surrounding Amy. Unfortunately, the rather small size of the titles is a bit of a nuisance, especially if you’re short sighted or on a plane. However, this flaw is atoned for through the raw emotion from everyone, as well as the frequent usage of motifs (or rather, themes) such as the importance of family, failed relationships and the pervasive paparazzi. Most of these issues are effectively conveyed in the beautiful teaser trailer for the film, which features countless excerpts of Amy’s thoughts, her beguiling voice, and the electric sound of flash photography. The teaser is a firm testament to the heart-breaking and arresting nature of this gem of a film, and is solid evidence for why this is a standout movie of 2015.
Rating - ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆