The Amy Winehouse Documentary Doesn’t Pander

Like Senna’s, Winehouse’s family co-operated with Kapadia, but unlike them, they are displeased with the film, and it’s not hard to see why. As well as a welcome portrait of the frequently caricatured Winehouse as an (exceptional) artist and as a person, Amy is an indictment of those around her, especially her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, with whom she developed a set of addictions that derailed her life, her manager, Raye Cosbert, and her father, Mitch, all of whom are portrayed as prioritising her career (and thus theirs) over her health. It is rare to see a non-fiction film in which the goodies seem so good and the baddies so bad, and the effect can be confusing, especially for those of us whose existing assumptions about what happened to Winehouse align with what is shown here. Are we being pandered to? Footage of Fielder-Civil, both from before and during his disastrous relationship with Winehouse, is difficult to watch, and I wondered several times whether the expression of smug, bratty cunning on his face was at least in part a projection of mine, or the director’s. (Having said that, if there’s a more appealing side to Fielder-Civil, it’s not obvious. ‘I can’t sing, so therefore Amy’s life is the only one that is ever valid,’ he recently complained to an interviewer. ‘I almost feel like I’m being punished.’)

Lidija Haas writing in the London Review of Books about Asif Kapadia’s documentary Amy, about the singer Amy Winehouse.

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