A film charting the story of Audrey Hepburn, the documentary Audrey is well worth seeking out – here’s our review.
Known for her iconic film roles in the likes of Roman Holiday, Funny Face and Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn remains one of cinema’s most recognisable faces. Yet such widespread recognition comes with its own price, with Hepburn often being reduced down to just a few key moments or images. Many will know of her strong links with Givenchy and haute couture fashion, and some will know of her remarkable work as a UNICEF ambassador in her later years. However, many remain unaware of her difficult younger years as a malnourished child in war-torn Holland. Or of her passion for dance and her desire to become a prima ballerina.
It is aspects such as these that Helena Coan’s beautiful documentary seeks to restore in people’s collective understanding and appreciation of Audrey Hepburn. Featuring interviews with Audrey’s family and friends, as well as figures such as Peter Bogdanovich, Molly Haskell, and Richard Dreyfuss, Coan’s documentary takes you throughout the actor’s life from start to finish. From being raised by parents who initially supported fascism, to her role in helping the Dutch resistance during the Second World War, the film chronicles Audrey’s very tough childhood, which left her malnourished and affected her, physically and mentally, for the rest of her life. Coan devotes as much time to these parts of Audrey’s life as she does to Audrey’s acting career and time in Hollywood, ensuring these moments are understood as being as significant as those aspects which are already widely known about her.
Opting to bypass the more traditional approach of a central narrator, Coan brilliantly chooses instead to utilise archival audio interviews of Audrey speaking about herself. This adds a further touch of authenticity, whilst strengthening her presence within the film itself, allowing her to be very much be part of telling her own story. The film also brings Audrey’s love of dance to the forefront, with Coan using dance sequences (featuring the remarkably talented Keira Moore, Francesca Hayward, and Alessandra Ferri) to express different periods of Audrey’s life. Choreographed by Wayne McGregor, these moments are strikingly poignant, offering a taste of what Audrey may have achieved if she had been able to fulfil her childhood dream of becoming a ballerina. They also feel fresh, ensuring the film is still a worthwhile watch for those who are already Audrey Hepburn aficionados.
Coan’s film feels like a real labour of love, with the admiration and respect for Audrey emanating from the screen. The best documentaries about a specific individual are visually engaging, in addition to accurately providing a sense of the complex personality at the heart of the film. Audrey manages to do exactly that, capturing both the dazzling highs and the tragic lows of Audrey’s life, whilst maintaining the assertion that it is precisely all of these parts that come together to make her such an iconic figure.
Coan’s heartfelt and moving documentary offers a rounded portrait of one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century, elaborating on the simplified image that is commonly held of one of Hollywood’s most identifiable stars.
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