Amy and Heaven Adores You Review.
Written by: Elke Eijsink, Edited by Ebba Eriksson
Two artists, two very different music genres, two set of problems and two stories with so many similarities. Asif Kapadia’s Bafta winning, academy awards nominated ‘Amy’ and Nickolas Dylan Rossi’s critically acclaimed ‘Heaven Adores You’ about Elliott Smith. Both artists exposed in these documentaries had problems with drugs, love and fame. I definitely understand where people get the ideas of comparing these two documentaries together. But have they really something in common?
Everybody knows the story of Amy Winehouse. The amazing singer who died at age 27, way to soon. Her life has been examined so many times that everybody seems to know everything about her. After seeing this movie, you will know that it is not the case. What makes this documentary created by Asif Kapadia so special is the way he presents her story. He perfectly shows the transformation from a passionate but depressed young girl, living in North London, to the incredibly successful artist who concurred the world. Kapadia goes back to the source of her life. Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in 201, possibly brought on by her fame. but experts also consider it to be a high chance that it could have had something to do with her disease Bulimia, from what she was suffering. Personal photo’s and video’s shot by family, friends, her ex-manager and her parents are what this documentary consist of, supported by voice-mails of Amy and of course a lot of her music. Her talent explodes of the screen. Kapadia uses her songs as the main focus of the documentary from a home-video ‘Happy Birthday’ song in her parents house in North London from her last concert in Belgrade where she was not even able to sing one single note anymore, completely drunk.
‘Heaven Adores You’ is a documentary about singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, who died from self-inflicted knife wounds to the heart in 2003. Director Nickolas Dylan Rossi perfectly thread together the memories of the people who were closest to Elliott including his manager, director, family and ex-girlfriend but also opinions and thoughts of people who only knew him as the guy that came into their bar to have a beer and write songs. This makes the documentary very special because Elliott is remembered from different points of view. Naturally Rossi included a lot of Elliott’s music throughout the whole documentary with often images of the three big cities that he lived in throughout his too short of a life. In the documentary, only a small focus is on the drug problem that he had. It is clear that the focus was on his music and the feelings that he gave to other people with this gift. These were often isolated images of Portland, New York and Los Angeles. In the end, ‘Heaven Adores You’ presents the journey of the life of Elliott Smith and the impact that he had on many fans, fellow musicians and friends.
So what makes these documentaries similar but also different? At first, the approach of story build up is quite different. Where ‘Amy’ starts showing her younger years, ‘Heaven Adores You’ starts with the death of Elliot. This sets the tone for the documentaries in very different ways. This gives a sad and sentimental reaction from the beginning of ‘Heaven Adores You’ whereas in ‘Amy’ you see her young, innocent talent which gives an upbeat feeling. It was clear that both artists had similar problems related to drugs, fame and love. Both stated from the beginning on that they were the wrong kind of people to be big and famous and it was clear that they were emotionally unstable. What seemed to have had and input in Amy Winehouse death is her unconditional love and passion for her husband and father. This should be a strength but in this case it unfortunately was a flaw, since they were a bad influence on her and a big part of her drug problem. It seemed to be that Elliott Smith was much more silent about his problems and there was no bad influence from outside, like in Amy’s case. It came from inside. This particular difference is also clearly notable in both the documentaries. ‘Heaven Adores You’ talks about drugs on the background and lets the music and memories come out to the front. Whereas on the contrary in ‘Amy’, there is a lot of focus on her drug and fame problem. ‘Amy’ and ‘Heaven Adores You’ are both beautiful but tragic and are definitely worth watching.
Read our earlier review of Amy here.