It’s been more than a week since I watched Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, Amy, and I haven’t been able to put it out of my mind. Did it change how I felt about the late soulstress? Not particularly. Amy Winehouse’s story is familiar as it is tragic. It all seems so stupidly obvious when you look at the pieces. Discussing her personal demons, the evils of addiction, and the price of fame seems superfluous.
Winehouse’s story is a common one, but there’s nothing common about her. It goes without saying that she was one of our generation’s greatest talents, and I would have gladly just watched two hours of her performance clips at random. While the film does offer some truly mesmerizing onstage moments, it gives so much more. Amy manages to get on top of you, overpower you with pure emotion, and stay with for you for long after its 128 minutes are up. In fact, I’m not sure it’ll ever leave me.
Though her inimitable contralto voice made her a star, it was Winehouse’s songwriting that truly made her a legend. “She was relatable,” says Mark Ronson, close friend and co-producer of her breakthrough smash, Back To Black. “She touched people and that became their music.” Her raw vulnerability, unapologetic sensuality, poignant romanticism, and witty humor shone through in all of her lyrics.
This degree of intimacy continues in Amy. Kapadia’s film showcases remarkable early footage of the singer as a teenager. Napping in the back of cars, goofing around the mall, hamming it up while singing “Happy Birthday” to her friends—being close in age, the effect is truly eerie. Amy could easily be any of my own friends.
It had been easy (or easier) to accept Winehouse’s demise when you elevate her to the Pantheon of Divas, but Amy forces you to confront how painfully human she truly was. On July 23, 2011 the world lost a star. After watching Amy, you’ll feel like you lost a friend.