One of the most revealing Amy Winehouse documentaries ever released.
One of the most revealing Amy Winehouse documentaries ever released. Contributed.

MOVIE REVIEW: Music was Amy Winehouse's salvation


Stars: Amy Winehouse as herself, Blake Fielder as himself

Director: Asif Kapadia.

Reviewer: Megan Mackander

Verdict: 4.5 stars 

"I DON'T think I could cope with being famous ... I'd probably go mad."

Amy Winehouse never wanted to be famous. In fact, as we learn in a new documentary into the jazz singer's life, some of her final words before she died of heart failure from alcohol poisoning were: "If I could take this all back, to be able to walk down the street without any hassle, I would."

The glorious but sad life of Amy Winehouse has been thrust into the spotlight once more with the new documentary out in cinemas, Amy Winehouse: In Her Own Words.

I never had an opinion on the British music star, but I know she had always intrigued me. That fantastic voice, intertwined with an addiction to love, lust, drugs and alcohol.

Amy Winehouse tells it in her own words.
Amy Winehouse tells it in her own words. Picasa

But a clear theme of the documentary was that Amy was 

addicted to music. She loved it.

Music was her salvation when the world let her down. Her outlet.

This portrait of Amy stitches together footage from several BBC documentaries with many revealing interviews with the singer from past years. The film spans from about 2001 until her death in 2011.

The footage is overlaid with interviews with close friends, managers, promoters and her mum and dad.

The two-hour documentary also features excerpts from some of her live performances, including unseen footage of Amy singing Love is a Losing Game and Wake Up Alone in 2007.

We see Amy as a North London teenager saying she never thought she could make a career from her voice, but she knew she could sing. She's soon introduced to an amateur agent by a friend and starts to dabble in the studio.

In her short career, Amy reached critical acclaim and changed the face of pop culture. She won countless awards.

The most exciting for her was a Grammy for best record with Back to Black. We see her in London celebrating with her team. It's a wonderful highlight of her career.

At that time, she was clean. It wouldn't last for long.

We see Amy battle addiction - alcohol, cocaine and bulimia - and how it dragged down her talents.

But this documentary shows there's much more to Amy.

While she openly says she's promiscuous, she loves to be loved and pours her heart into a man named Blake who, while already having a girlfriend, dates Amy for the summer. We learn he would become the inspiration behind many of her songs, including the all-important Back to Black, after the two of them break up. They eventually reunite and her addiction intensifies.

She struggles to keep up with his drug-taking but she sees it as the only way to be in his life. She's addicted to him.

She admits falling in love with him didn't do her any favours: "When I split up with this fella, I didn't have anything to go back to. I wasn't working, so I was playing pool four hours every day, getting drunk and having to be carried home in a wheelbarrow.

"So Back to Black is about a black mood, I guess."

The film shines an unusual light on Amy's parents, particularly her father, who was labelled as the reason Amy was never clean, as if he never acknowledged her problem and that it was his blase attitude that resulted in Amy never going to rehab when she started spiralling.

But the major message of the documentary was that Amy was never in the music business for fame or money. The aggressive paparazzi drove her crazy, and she always said she'd rather sit in the background, writing music and doing intimate shows than festivals with 50,000 people. Alas, the price of fame.

You'd probably need to be an Amy fan, or at least a music or documentary fan, to appreciate this film, but certainly you'll come away thinking "what a loss" when you experience just how amazing Amy's talents were.

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