Andrew’s review published on Letterboxd:
Trigger Warning!: Childhood abandonment/trauma, mention of drinking/smoking!
Audrey Hepburn's dream was never to be an actress. She wanted to be a ballet dancer but acting fell into her lap and she ended up becoming an international icon. Audrey won several accolades and was offered parts right and left. Personally, I knew she was an actress but nothing else so watching this documentary was a joy. I went in with little expectations but was surprised with how much it hit me emotionally. One of my key takeaways from this documentary, Audrey, was her constant pursuit of love. In that pursuit she spread love as much as she could but struggled to find it for herself.
Audrey follows the superstar actress from childhood to her death. The biggest focus of the documentary was on her acting career and the emotional turmoil that she kept under lock and key. Growing up, Audrey wanted to be a ballet dancer. Despite that being her dream job, she exploded into the public spotlight as an actress from her award winning performance in Roman Holiday. She became an overnight sensation due to her beauty, grace and acting talent. The film points out that she was unlike other actress at the time. She wasn't the girl next door type or sensual and sexy like Marilyn Monroe. Audrey was just uniquely herself. While she always had a big smile on her face and sparkling eyes, she was always anxious. The talking heads recount that Audrey's father left the family when she was a child which likely contributed to the anxiety she constantly felt. They also mention that her childhood trauma was likely why she tried to spread love wherever she went but never found it for herself.
The documentary uses a combination of video/film clips, audio recordings, photographs, interludes with ballet dancers. The talking heads were friends, co-workers and family, including her son Sean who was dearly important to Audrey. You could feel the emotion from these individuals and just how much Audrey meant to them. I cried a few times when they would recount their experiences with her. They pointed out how the fame never went to her head. Audrey was unpretentious, she never flaunted her fame around and acted just like any other person would.
Helena Coan did a brilliant job directing and writing this documentary and I'm surprised she only has a few directing/writing credits under her name. Hopefully Coan will continue making documentaries and this was an excellent showcase of her talent. There is a clear direction and the narrative flows nicely. While some segments feel a bit rushed, overall, the pace moves along nicely.
My biggest gripe with the movie is there's little mention of Audrey's flaws. When they are presented it's mostly glossed over. One example was when her singing was dubbed in a film she starred in which made Audrey upset. Another one is how she started to become angry at the constant paparazzi. These are mentioned in passing and delving into them would have given a more well-rounded picture of who Audrey was. She was clearly a kind and caring person but everyone is not perfect but she comes off that way in the movie. My other issue is the cuts to the ballet dancers. In the first half it worked because it was a single dancer on a stage. However, in the second half, there were some dance segments that felt contrived.
Audrey Hepburn was a beautiful person inside and out. This documentary, Audrey, details how she rocked the acting world but it never changed who she was. She was filled with love and tried to spread it as much as she could but felt it lacking in her own life. Audrey was uniquely Audrey and that's what made her so special. However, I wish that some of the mentions of her anger was explored a bit more. Despite this, director and write Helena Coan delivered an excellent documentary which provided a glimpse into Audrey's life. If you're a big fan of Hepburn this documentary would be perfect for you. Anyone who is interested in the history of Hollywood, or just loves a good documentary, may find a lot to love here. I highly, highly recommend it!!