Amy Winehouse and How to Watch Movies as a Christian

Alex Duke | August 14, 2015

We first meet teenage Amy as she croons “Happy Birthday” to a friend. Even then, she wields her gift—that vocal volatility, that lilting smoke—with both surety and unease, a mixture that never vanishes despite her ever-increasing fame. She hides from the camera even as she owns it.

Asif Kapadia’s Amy—the stirring documentary that chronicles the life and all-too-early death of British megastar Amy Winehouse—runs like a multimedia timeline of Winehouse’s life. Kapadia is a master builder with borrowed material, as his more than two hours are exclusively comprised of photos and footage from her life and career. There’s no editorializing here, and his only authorial imprints are time-and-location stamps and superimposed, handwritten lyrics for the scenes in which he invites us to watch her sing. (And boy, are these scenes wonderful.)

Of course, the structure is the director’s—and he uses it to effect a perception that sees Winehouse’s music as a commentary that ran alongside her life with all its precipitous ups and downs. For example, she wrote the Grammy-winning “Rehab” after friends begged her to seek help for a growing drug and alcohol problem; this attempt failed because, as the song tells the world, “my daddy thinks…

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