Back to Black Can’t Beat Powerful Max Documentary Every Fan Must See

By Shanna Mathews-Mendez | Published

I was not a fan of Amy Winehouse before I saw the documentary about her life, Amy, in 2015. Sure, I enjoyed Rehab back in 2006. Who didn’t? But her music mostly escaped my attention, and I never knew what I was missing. When I entered a small, independent theater in Oakland, California to watch this documentary, I had no idea I’d come out completely changed. 

Amy Winehouse In Her Own Words

I’ve always loved music, musicians, and the stories behind their successes and failures, but Amy portrays this truly genius artist in a light unlike any other. Perhaps this distinction is because the documentary is, as it has been billed, “Amy in her own words.” The director, Asif Kapadia, conducted over 100 interviews with Amy’s friends and family and includes video footage of her as a young child, as an early singer, and as a seasoned, dying Grammy winner.

We are treated to real, authentic, raw emotion from the people she left behind, and Amy does a spectacular job of making us love her the way those who truly knew her did and hate the villains that contributed to her downfall. 

Home Video Footage

The documentary opens with Amy as a 14-year-old girl singing “Happy Birthday” to her best friend in Southgate, London, where she was born and raised. It then takes us chronologically through her life, with rare footage of Amy commenting on her art, her passion for music, and her cavalier attitude towards a mainstream, “acceptable” life. She enjoys smoking pot at a young age, she writes her music from a small one-bedroom flat, and she sits in a studio excited to share her passions with whoever wants to listen. 

An Untraditional Musician

While many musicians will say they don’t really care if they become famous, you really believe it when Amy says it in the documentary footage. Indeed, not only does she not care, but you get the impression that she is averse to public attention and fame. She’s not a traditional musician by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, you almost wonder where her music fits. 
It’s just… Amy. And fans loved it. 

Battles With Addiction

That’s the story Amy tells audiences. Her rise to fame was exceptional and shocking, both to Amy and to the world. Her first album, Frank, received critical acclaim for tracks like Stronger Than Me, In My Bed, and F*%k Me Pumps. But it was after this album that she met and fell madly in love with the man who would become her strongest addiction and enabler, Black Fielder-Civil. 

It was the repeated break-ups, make-ups, and drug use in between that inspired her incredible album, Back to Black, which she released in 2006 during a break-up with Blake and the heroin she had become addicted to. 

The Legendary Music

The film shows her meteoric rise, her Grammy win, and then her reunion with Blake, and her epic fall under the strain of a toxic marriage, a history of bulimia and drug abuse, and an overwhelming amount of attention from fans and the media. 

Amy is beautiful, poignant, heart-wrenching, and tragic. A major part of the journey through this artist’s story in the film is her music playing in the background of virtually every scene, every video, and every interview. Songs like “Some Unholy War,” “Love Is a Losing Game,” and “You Know I’m No Good” made me rush out and buy both of Amy’s albums and almost ten years later, I still have her music on my playlists. 

Stream Amy On Max


Rotten Tomatoes gives Amy a 95 percent, and I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

In advance of the biopic coming out in May, Back to Black, I urge you to stream Amy on Max. I have no doubt the new film will be exceptional, but it will be so much better with the background and context.