A poignant and beautiful behind the scenes look at the short, sharp, and awe inspiring story of a young woman's burgeoning passion for music, her dramatic rise to fame, and equally dramatic disappearance from the lives of millions, touched by all things Amy.
Amy was released four years after Amy Winehouse's demise and managed to re-tap into the hype and sensationalism which followed the young artist as she was introduced to the double-edged sword which is fame in this modern world. Billed as a documentary, it claims to tackle all the difficult and normally untold issues which affect the up-and-coming, as well as established, artists in the world.
I'm already walking into the theatre with the mind-set of ignoring what I would traditionally call horrible or at best amateurish camera work; the entirety of the film based on the private and personal home video material and photographic moments of Amy's life, as supplied by her family and friends.
We start off like any good narrative would have us believe we should: Amy's early life which is quickly and succinctly summarised. The stage is set, the characters introduced and major plot developments already in place. Action!
Amy comes from a typical English North London 'burb and with that comes a heavy local dialect, which for most of the world is difficult to follow. There are times when the filmmakers compensate for particularly distorted sound, which goes hand in hand with earlier models of handheld camera equipment, by using subtitles to circumnavigate the issue. One wishes though that the subtitles could have rather been kept for the duration of the film to make it easier for the audience to understand the heroin throughout the piece which detracts slightly from the overall experience.
Now we start to tackle the crux of the film. Amy, her life, her songs, her unyielding uncompromising desire to bring back real music, and the tragedy that was her untimely passing. This is an emotive piece and blame is duly apportioned for Amy's demise to those who had been cast into the role of villain. Fairly or unfairly so? I will allow your own conscience to determine. It is however very clear that Amy had a troubled home life and took the break-up of her parents very badly. Rebelling at an early age from her mother, and clearly looking for the approval and love from her absent father, she immersed herself in music. We can quickly and easily map the highs and lows of Amy's life by looking at the music inspired by the times at which she wrote them.
(Am I already saying too much here? Fret not, these comments are no spoilers for those who have as yet not seen it. With this piece I merely try to explore the reasoning behind Amy without attempting to rehash or summarise the film.)
These early times of her life are well covered, but one feels the rest of Amy's influences take a massive back step as the story begins to focus more and more on the tragedies of Amy's life. Her brother, for example, and his initial spurring of Amy to find herself in music goes wholly unmentioned. But this is what we have come to expect from such completely subjective pieces, we would just appreciate it if the film makers and producers could also be honest and dub Amy a short biography of the events which led to her death. Beyond these few and really very minor "critiques", Amy is a mesmerising film.
You quickly find yourself emoting with our main "actress" as we see her for the first time as those closest and most dear to her did. The strength of this connection makes the film speed by as you absorb the hits and highlights of those last few frenetic years. Your heart at times breaks for this tiny frail human as she yearns for structure and love; for those she most adores to also see and acknowledge her. At other times, you fume at the apparent ambivalence shown to our heroin as she succumbs to all the negativity that seems to be a by-product of fame. We rejoice as she overcomes hurdle after hurdle and meets her own heroes who venerate and adore her as equally as she them.
It's an intoxicating feeling which draws the audience in ever deeper into the pageantry, drama, passion, exploits and brutal honesty which was the tour-de-force also known as Amy Winehouse. As I walk away from Amy, I pause to reflect on what I've just watched. I've not learnt anything new about Amy or those who the world media’s constant hounding of her private life forced out and thrust into a limelight which was never sought and certainly not appreciated.
So is this piece aimed at "us"? The legions of fans who dote and so eagerly will absorb any tidbit of the private lives and tragedies of our heroes. Are we ultimately responsible for the fates of our heroes by placing these unfair and unrealistic expectations on them? Certainly some food for thought in that particular nugget.
Ultimately, I see Amy as a tragic warning to the world as a whole, so that we can better protect the next amazing and passionate person who wishes to bring back a raw level of honesty to any one of the musical fields, so that we may better stop this growing membership roll of the "27 club".
Should you watch Amy? If you have as yet not, then a very clear and definite “yes” is my answer. If you have, then again “yes”; this time more for you the audience to try grapple with the “why?” of this film.
Theatre Scene would love to hear some of your opinions once you have visited Cinema Nouveau to experience a screening of Amy during the #EuroFilmFestSA between 6 and 15 May 2016. So please feel free to tweet your thoughts to @TheatreSceneCpt.