- Emma Simmonds
- 30 November 2020
Brimming with adoration for its subject, Audrey takes a rather too lovely look at the iconic star
This somewhat infatuated documentary about the life of incomparable movie icon Audrey Hepburn attracts a raft of knowledgeable and adoring contributors and assembles a wealth of beautiful archive footage, thoroughly illustrating her unique screen presence. Writer-director Helena Coan paints a picture of a woman who was saintly but often sad, who bowled over and ultimately shunned Hollywood and was, above all, looking to be loved.
The film is strung together by a series of ballet interludes, representing the stages and changing fortunes of Hepburn's life; it's not so much an odd choice (Hepburn trained as a dancer, but childhood misfortune put her at a disadvantage), but an unnecessary one, which distracts from the business of getting to know its subject. In that, we're aided by Hepburn's son Sean Hepburn Ferrer, her granddaughter Emma Ferrer, and by family friends who share what they remember or were told, while collaborators including Richard Dreyfuss and Peter Bogdanovich give their impressions too.
We're taken from Hepburn's fraught childhood, which saw her parents flirt with fascism and eventually divorce, and Hepburn suffer malnourishment in occupied Holland, to happier times in Hollywood, where she made her own niche and met her first husband Mel Ferrer. Later insights deal with the failure of that relationship and her second marriage, her decision to prioritise motherhood over moviemaking, and her reinvention as a tireless UNICEF ambassador.
Although there is some mention of hardship, Coan skirts rather lightly over the tougher episodes in Hepburn's life. Her experiences of the film industry are underexplored and portrayed as almost exclusively positive, which doesn't hugely chime with what we know from other stars. Though the men in her life are criticised, Audrey herself escapes this kind of more rounded perspective, making this more of a hagiography. Hepburn's sparkle and charm prove as irresistible as ever, but it feels like there's so much more to say.
Available to watch on demand from Mon 30 Nov.