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The success of Asif Kapadia’s documentary on British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse is its ability to get you to feel for the subject even if, like me, you were never really a fan of the singer or were fascinated by her life. Kapadia has earlier directed Senna (2010), about the life and death of Brazilian motor-racing champion Ayrton Senna.

Amy Winehouse was born in North London and died in North London, but in her short life of 27 years, her voice travelled all over the world. She died of alcohol poisoning accelerated by bulimia, but her real problems were not just related to her addiction and health.

Using video footage, archival footage, TV clips, photographs, recordings and interviews with her friends, family and colleagues, the access to Winehouse’s inner world makes this documentary searing. While Kapadia has interviewed even Winehouse’s bodyguard, representatives from her record labels, producers, managers and doctors, her mother’s voice is starkly absent from the narrative.

An exceptionally mature writer and singer for someone so young, Winehouse had a disarming confidence about her, and a deep commitment to her music. She was just 20 when she released her debut album Frank. Her next album Back to Black won her five 2008 Grammy Awards.

Just as much as the film traces her music and commercial success, it shows the nature of Winehouse’s personal relationships, particularly her romantic liaisons. The most damaging was her obsession with Blake Fielder-Civil who she married in 2007. In order to be on the same plane as him, she slipped into a hazy and destructive world of drug abuse. Pictures of Winehouse and Fielder-Civil beaten up and bleeding captured the nature of their damaging and destructive relationship. In one clip, Blake is heard asking who is paying for the drinks because he has no money. When someone replies “Amy", he proceeds to order an expensive bottle of champagne.

There is a fleeting reference to Fielder-Civil being arrested. It’s a seemingly important chapter that’s glossed over. Fielder-Civil and Winehouse’s father Mitchell come across as self-serving exploiters who unwittingly sacrificed their golden goose. There’s a telling clip of Mitchell bringing along a film crew to Amy’s retreat in Saint Lucia where she is finally clean and at peace, away from the intrusive media and paparazzi. This visibly unsettles her.

Another disturbing clip shows Winehouse botching up a live show in Belgrade. This was June 2011. She was found dead in her London home the following month. The entire rise and fall is punctuated by a delicious soundtrack including Winehouse’s hits Stronger Than Me, Rehab and Love is a Losing Game. The inclusion of some unreleased tracks will be gold for Winehouse fans.

At 128 minutes long, it takes a little while to get into Winehouse’s story, but once you do, you find yourself drawn into her world. Amy is not just a study of the tragic life of a talented and misdirected young woman and a record of the Grammy-winning artist and her journey. It is also a thesis on the darker side of celebrity, fame and addiction. As one music professional says, “In our business, nothing can prepare you for that level of success."

It is a heartbreaking and haunting documentary that makes you feel for the subject—the girl, and the star that she became.

Amy released in theatres on Friday

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