After her death in 2011 the world seemed to know everything about her, but The Girl Behind The Name had something else to say. It unravels the tightly twisted tail of troubled stars only to show the normal girl with an extraordinary talent that was at the base of it all, Amy Winehouse. Director and the man who made it happen, Asif Kapadia, picked up the idea of the film in 2013, two years after the singer’s death and announced it’s upcoming release in early 2015. Even after years, the remorse felt over her death was still raw causing it to be one of the highest grossing british documentary ever.
The film was nominated for countless awards some of them being at The Grammys, European Film Awards, Academy Awards best documentary. Mitch Winehouse, whose integrity is called into question during the film tweeted after hearing about the stars movie nomination at the Brit Awards, “Just heard Amy nominated for Brit for best British female singer. We are so proud of you baby”, but then goes on to say, “I still hate that film though”.
The film kicks off with a home film of Amy singing “Happy Birthday” to a small group of close friends, showing that even from the age of 14 years old she had a raw talent. She says in the film, compiled completely if home videos, gig footage, and interviews, that she never saw singing as a career for, only as a skill she had and could use when she needed it. Little did she know her voice was that of special proportion. She was discovered at the age of 16 by Lioness Records, a recruiter had heard of Amy from a mutual friend and had to see if she was all she was talked up to be. She truly was.
The movie escalates from that point to her steady rise to fame. In the beginning Amy had the purest relationship with music there could be. The movie shows multiple clips of her and her guitar belting out a song that was simply a poem in smoky rooms of small early gigs. At those beginning milestones of the film you can’t help but feel satisfied watching, as it was your own friend putting out a record or moving into their first flat, a few minutes of just Amy and her voice and that being it.
As soon as you get comfortable with Winehouse’s wide smile and booming laugh, her slow decline begins all of a sudden. The mark of disaster is very possibly the beginning of her fleeting relationship with Blake Fielder, who’s a blatant mess waiting to happen. He was the beginning of Amy’s serious drug problems. Amy’s close friend talks about how one night he called her and broke it off over a voicemail, saying that he wanted to be with his girlfriend. “I went insane. I literally went mad” Amy’s reminiscent voice admits in an interview over drunk and miserable paparazzi shots placed in the film at that point in time to represent her calamity.
Mitch Winehouse opposed the film being released, saying the content was inaccurate, but he’s seen in a recent interview with directors, Asif Kapadia, saying he didn’t want Amy to go to rehab after the break up, when she was heavily drinking and using drugs. All of a sudden you realize it’s too late for the girl you fell in love with in the first 40 minutes of the film, as she blows up all over the world. Her sorrow brought out in daily drunken carousel as soon as she hit fame seemed tacky and absurd to the public, who could only mock her.
The last half of the film is enough to leave any viewer, fan or not, in tears, twisted stomach, heavy with the pang of guilt. It becomes harder and harder to watch as her eyes get paler, the bones sticking out of her pale ghostly frame, as she harassed and abused by crowds and paparazzi. The film awakens a dismal hope that Amy can be saved, only to come to a close with Amy being carried out of her Camden apartment in a body bag. The film goes black and you’re left haunted by her last days.
The criticism the film received from sophisticated names like Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and many others makes the whole film much more clear to a grief stricken viewer who’s moved by the sorrow of Amy’s old soul condemned to misunderstanding. The guardian says, “the document seems to lack any moral control” continuing with, “the footage contributes nothing aesthetically or narratively to the film, only working to accentuate the shock factor”. Kapadia says one of his reasons for making the film was that people liked her voice, but they didn’t necessarily respect her as a human being. Now there’s a lot of love for her as a person. Which is great. NME agrees, saying that the film made the public love and respect Amy.
Variety compares the film to Montage of Heck, a documentary about Kurt Cobain, in the way it’s intimate but almost intrusive. Kapadia grew a love for Amy, the girl, as he dove deeper into her personal files and learned who she was through her art. His goal was to portray Amy as a simple girl, who sang soul music, and ending up paying with her own,. I listened and loved Amy Winehouse’s songs growing up, I never knew anything about her or her struggles, but now I see her as a person I know. That was the point.