Two years ago I sat on a long-haul flight back from the UK after seeing my Dad for the last time before he passed away.
I was already slightly emotional but also relieved. As I tucked into a red wine on the Abu-Dhabi to Sydney leg, I impatiently flicked through the movie library, as I usually did, frustrated there were few decent documentaries to watch.
I settled on Senna. I like sport and documentaries but was never a big fan of Formula One or Motor Racing. My brother on the other hand loved it and I had heard of Ayrton Senna so I decided to give it a go.
It proved to be a revelation; I barely moved for the whole movie. The style was incredible, mainly subtitled faceless interviews (you only heard their voice) with people that were close to Senna, seamlessly woven into photographs, home videos and television archives, backed by a spine-tingling soundtrack. Somehow this footage created what I believe is one of the most underrated movies of all time.
As much as I always wonder why my wife cries openly when watching fictional stories, I found myself welling-up as the movie neared it’s end, especially the footage of Senna’s crash and death; that even included his on-board helmet camera. What followed was what seemed like an hour (but was really 30 seconds) of melancholic silence and frantic visions of the emergency team attempting to save him.
If you’ve read my previous blogs you will know I love reality. Not the type we are brainwashed with by television and authorities. The facts, good and bad. The true stories of humans. As close to raw, personal emotion as possible. And Sienna provided the “Full Monty”.
So when I heard just a couple of months ago that some of the same team behind Senna (including Director Asif Kapadia) were due to release a movie about the life of Amy Winehouse, titled Amy, I immediately scribbled a reminder in my diary.
I was never a huge fan of Amy; I liked her commercial songs as everyone did but never listened to the real music she made. The deep, dark music about real life, love and pain.
What followed was two hours of intense, voiceovers from friends and family and of course confronting footage, images and crucially, music.
Without simply providing a synopsis of Amy’s life or the already publicly available views of corporate media, I will explain the thoughts I had immediately as left the cinema, my first reactive emotions, thoughts and questions:
Mental Illness – It’s a Joke (to some)
I do not care for opinions of mental illness when you have no idea of what even the most “minor” affliction this disease can cause. But what further intensified my disgust for mainstream media is the way essentially Amy was taken the piss out of for suffering from serious mental illness, her addictions and struggles. When we listen to the TV and newspapers for our view of the world, the result is simply a regurgitation of their views. This film showed the real, vulnerable, tortured human that everyone wanted his or her monies worth from, regardless of her condition.
“Daddy Issues” – It’s real?
Some years ago when a friend was experiencing some troubles with his on-off partner of course it was her fault (as loyal “friends” we only hear one side of the story from them and take that as the truth, regardless of the human on the other side). He coined a term, saying (insensitively I thought at the time) she had “Daddy Issues”, searching for the love and acceptance of her parent (I know now clearly he was deflecting his own very same issues). Amy herself clearly experienced this. Dads (and Mums in some circumstances) are only human granted, but they believe their faults, errors and sometimes downright selfish actions have no affect on their children and will tell themselves this to the day they die. Again I reiterate, some.
Amy’s Dad left the family and reportedly only reappeared consistently when Amy was famous. Watch the film and make your own mind up. But on a personal level and many of my own friends’ experiences, there are too many people out there with a similar issue. If they know it or not, it can be a never-ending cycle of the way they then treat their children and so on. It takes someone brave and extremely human to break the cycle and work hard at changing it for the future.
Tough Love – A matter of life or death?
The regretful tone of many people in Amy’s life after her death spoke volumes. Yes, due to my very own experience I believe you need to be in a place to want to get help before you can take an effective step. However this can sometimes be too late, we (humans) are great procrastinators and it may take a close friend or family member to take (grab) you by the hand and guide you (forcefully if needed) towards help. I no longer feel uncomfortable asking a mate if they are ok or, subtly or not so subtly, depending on the severity, telling it how it is. Dr Phil-style.
Too many years I spent essentially lying to others, and myself, living in a coma. You have to be brave because bluntly, you may lose your friend anyway at least in the short-term (as Amy did with her childhood mates, sadly they lost her in the end). But in the long-term if they find a gram of contentment and do not “check-out” of their life and yours, they will thank you, verbally or not.
Finally this should not even be a takeaway. It should be the most simple, obvious piece of advice that we are given daily by the world. Be Nice. Consistently. Not just when it suits you or when people are listening. It can take a lot of hard work to do this (I know) depending on how the world has shaped you. But there are too many sad, bad and misguided people. You may just be able to change that in your own micro, yet powerfully influential world.