Any film about a musician who tragically dies early is bound to be sad, but nobody’s story is only sad. Filmmaker Asif Kapadia weaves together testimonials and footage, creating a documentary that ultimately supports not only Amy Winehouse’s music but also her unique swagger.
Midway through the film, an interviewer asks Amy: “Has anyone tried to shape you into something?” With neither annoyance at the question or hesitation in a response, she replies that yes someone once tried to shape her into a triangle but it didn’t work, brushing off with a simple joke the idea that someone else could be in control of what she presented the world.
Sure Winehouse had problems. And Kapadia doesn’t shy away from them. To separate her problems from her and her music wouldn’t make much sense, so intertwined are the two, but neither does he focus on her as a victim – of the media, other people, her compulsions – at the expense of her music. In the hands of Kapadia, Amy is much more than the spectacle we witnessed in 2008 and after. It is instead a celebratory portrait of a complicated and gifted woman dealing with (and trying to avoid) punishing stress.