• 2018
  • UK / US
  • 2h
  • 15
  • Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
  • Cast: Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown,
  • UK release: 6 July 2018

Clear-sighted, compassionate portrait of Whitney Houston, which derives its strength from the range of testimony it’s collected, from family members, surly former husband Brown, film co-stars and assorted siblings and loved ones. It reminds us of her thrilling, spine-tingling voice while bringing revelations that many of her troubles lay in childhood trauma.

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Scottish filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (Touching The Void) returns to his documentary roots with Whitney, a new film about the rise and fall of pop superstar Whitney Houston. Unlike the recent Nick Broomfield documentary, Macdonald had direct access to several of the singer’s close friends and family members and the result is an insightful and moving documentary of a talented but turbulent and ultimately tragic life.

"….an insightful and moving documentary…"

Despite her miraculous voice, Whitney battled personal demons and a drug addiction which led to her untimely death at 48. Combining candid interviews with archival footage, Macdonald explores her difficult upbringing, early struggles, and rise to international fame. He reveals the experiences, including a devastating revelation about a childhood trauma, which shaped her early life and drove her ambition but also fed into her self-destruction. Macdonald doesn’t shy away from the inner conflict Houston also carried as an African-American performer who constantly had to appeal to both white and black audiences. He also tactfully addresses the possibility of her sexuality being a hidden aspect of the singer’s complex and compartmentalised life.

Echoes of Amy Winehouse’s story reverberate, as Houston’s achievements were always overshadowed by a sense of responsibility to please and satisfy not only her fans but all those who relied on her success for support. Ultimately, Whitney is a heartbreaking portrait of an artist and star who seemed doomed to shine very brightly then tragically burn out but, as her fans will attest, never fade away.

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Reviews & features


3 Jul 20184 stars

Sombre and thoughtful documentary looking back over the tragic life of the titular singer

A cottage industry has grown up around the tragic life of Whitney Houston. There seems no end to those seeking to pick over the bones of her meteoric rise and drug-addicted fall. That rather begs the question of whether we need another documentary on…

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