THE sign of a great documentary is when the filmmaker can draw you into the subject regardless of your interest in it.

Kevin Macdonald, who was also behind the camera for Touching the Void, has that power.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Whitney Houston fan or not, the Scottish director’s masterful film goes beyond the live shows and headlines to discover the flawed human being behind the born performer.

Thanks to incredible family videos, archive materials and behind the scenes footage, the film looks at her whole life from childhood to fame to her troubled final years framed around a kind of ‘rise and fall’ story structure.

It is almost impossible not to be endeared to the young, innocent Whitney, a sweet girl with a beaming smile and incredible talent, known as Nippy, who was determined to follow in the footsteps of her musical family.

And that is what makes the latter parts of the documentary all the more achingly heartbreaking when you see – and get more of an insight into – the star’s drug addiction and downfall with no easy answers.

Macdonald’s strength in the director’s chair is taking you on that journey. You feel like you are riding those highs with Whitney when the music world was falling at her feet.

Macdonald also perfectly captures the culture and racial tensions of the 80s in Newark and wider America as the backdrop to her story.

Whitney’s troubled relationship with Bobby Brown is well documented and he remains defensive in his interviews here.

But the singer’s brothers are a lot more open, even when it does not paint them in the best of light.

You also learn about how her bond with her mother and matriarch Cissy Houston prepared her for creating ‘legacy music’ rather than ‘fad music’ and later how her fame and fortune were manipulated, most notably by her father John Houston.

The documentary tragically shows how chances to start again were missed and how the star became at odds with her celebrity – in a feeding frenzy of public judgement – before the inevitable but deeply sad end and the devastating impact on her daughter who died in eerily similar circumstances.

Whitney also explores family, legacy, race and the corrosive nature of fame in a way that will make you see the late star in a new light.

RATING: 8/10