Amy: A Slow-Motion Suicide
In an effort to familiarize myself with next week’s Oscars ceremonies, I recently watched one of the five films nominated for Best Documentary Feature: Amy, about the British singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse whose death in 2011 shocked no one. (To learn where to watch this year’s documentary nominees, start here.) Pieced together from amateur videos, photographs, interviews and performances, Amy is a difficult film to watch, not only because of the subject matter – in effect, a chronicle of a slow-motion suicide – but because of the lack of narration, at-times scattered direction, and heavy British accents that can take a few listens to understand correctly. Luckily the film includes subtitles of Winehouse’s lyrics and does a terrific job of identifying who’s talking, making even an unfamiliar viewer able to follow along. As the film transpires, it becomes clear that while no one is entirely to blame for Winehouse’s death, no one is entirely off the hook. It took a village to kill Amy Winehouse, and a multitude of lessons could be learned from what transpires achingly on film, though I doubt they ever will be: the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the beauty of music, the trappings of fame, the fragility of life, the need for strong parenting, how the absence of religion might facilitate an aimless and narcissistic life, how society rejoices in the failings of others, how business and the almighty dollar trumps people’s well-being, how who you fall in love with is not always who you should spend your life with, how one’s insecurities are never far away, and how death cares not one iota how remarkably talented you are.
It’s a tough watch. But a worthy one.