Asif Kapadia’s documentary film, Amy, is a compelling film portrayal of the singer Amy Winehouse.  I was unfamiliar with her music before I saw this film, but I feel, now, that I know the musician and her music well.

Kapadia’s film is produced with video footage of Amy, herself. Home video and professional clips introduce  Amy as a young teen, with birthday parties and family ties, who is eventually thrust into the brutal world of paparazzi cameras. Her new, exhausting celebrity life with the limelight just outside her front door, leads her to a private world of drugs and alcohol, as if to become invisible.

From the beginning, we see that this is not just an eyewitness documentary camera recording “just the facts.” In fact, audience members will soon forget they are watching a documentary. Kapadia creates a space of brutal and intense drama. The film quickly jumps from close ups to longer shots that spin from scene to scene. Her powerful singing, her dysfunctional traits and her downward spiral is told in a cyclone of cinematic space.  Yet, from beginning to end, we never lose sight of the complicated musician redeeming herself with her voice — all without dime-store psychology and sentimental patronizing.

In the end, Amy sings with one of her idols, Tony Bennett, who eulogizes her as one among the ranks of Dinah Washington, Billie Holliday and Aretha Franklin. To understand Amy Winehouse is to see that her music was inextricable from her personality — as genuine as anyone can be.

Check it out: