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In director Asif (Senna) Kapadia’s documentary about the all-too-short life of Amy Winehouse, it’s not hard to figure out who the bad guys are, because they’re pretty much everyone. Winehouse’s parents were ineffectual (her mum) or flat-out exploitative (her dad), her first husband got her onto hard drugs then broke her heart, her promoter kept her touring when she desperately needed a break, and Winehouse herself was clearly someone who did what she liked, and what she liked was booze and drugs. All that makes her life all the more tragic.
Throughout this documentary it’s hard not to think that if only someone had stepped up things might have been a lot different. Then again, on the brief occasions where her friends get a look-in they’re constantly saying they tried to turn the ship around. While Kapadia’s extensive use of actual footage (everyone either appears in contemporary footage with Winehouse or provides voice-over – there are no talking heads) gives the impression of the story as it happened, there’s no doubt that a lot of shaping has gone into creating the story we see. Still, some things are hard to refute: seeing Winehouse on an island holiday trying to pull her life together only to have her dad arrive with a reality show camera crew in tow is one of the sadder things you’ll see this year.