Back to Black Movie Review

This is a tough watch if you’re an Amy Winehouse fan. When you hear “Back to Black” in the film, your heart shatters. ​

Winehouse was an English singer and songwriter with outstanding jazz tunes for the average rock listener to enjoy. Here, all of her songs are beautifully redone. To hear actress Marisa Abela, from a series called “Industry,” sing them herself was quite the surprise. I never thought anyone could fill jazz and soul singing Amy’s shoes as I thought her voice was one of a kind. I was wrong. Abela is sensational.


Amy said all she ever wanted was for people to hear her voice and forget their troubles for a while. After saying this, director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) inserts the song “What It Is About Men” from her debut album “Frank.” It’s very fitting for the moment. Shortly after, Amy signed with 19 for representation, who she warned she was “not a Spice Girl” and didn’t want to be treated like one. Her record label was Island, who treated her right. We watch Amy grow from a young sprout to a weed in the garden of her own life. She has her beloved grandmother, Cynthia, or Nan, to help Amy through many of the key instances in her twenties, which she never lives beyond. Nan is played by Lesley Manville from “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.” Nan, once a singer herself, is Amy’s joy and her inspiration. Their relationship is wonderful but it’s sad to see that such an exceptional young woman doesn’t have many other people in her life and is about to have one less.


Her father Mitch, played by Eddie Marsan from “Wrath of Man,” helps steer her in the right direction when she wanders off too far mentally, such as when “Frank” peaks at number thirteen in the UK and doesn’t do a thing in the States. He finds weed in her room, which is downplayed in the movie, even though drugs were becoming a big problem in her life, as was her bulimia. It’s a shame that it wasn’t mentioned more than Blake was. Being bulimic gave her something to control before her devils took her down entirely. Food was the main outlet for that. That said, Amy does know how to hold her own with anyone and does. Especially when it comes to the next dilemma she encounters, Blake Fielder-Civil, the man she falls in love with after meeting him in a pub. Being so young, this liaison becomes toxic for her, but, as I’ve mentioned there were several other problems in her life that don’t get the focus Blake does. Perhaps this is because people can relate to them, not necessarily to the paparazzi outside of every door you walk through. Love turning sour? Yes, so it makes some sense to concentrate more on the heartbreak. You definitely feel it and it stays with you for several days after watching the film.  


The way it’s shot keeps you on edge and allows you to see Amy’s having difficulties and is falling apart. She wants her man, she wants her nan, and she wants to be a mother. What she gets is the biggest album from a female in the UK ever with “Back to Black.” If you’ve ever heard it, you know why. The five-time Grammy Award-Winner herself haunts the film. Sadly, Amy was unable to live beyond her twenties due to alcohol poisoning. She had gone to rehab, by the way, and lived long enough to have been presented the Record of the Year Grammy by Tony Bennett. Her nan would have been so proud. See the movie whether you’re a fan or not. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson shows you the good and the bad and keeps you involved in Amy’s story, which is heavy and heartbreaking. It’s tragic, but incredible. It’s also a sad reminder of what Amy still had to offer, what we had to miss out on because of her broken heart.

Back to Black


Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Written by: Matt Greenhalgh
Starring: Marisa Abela, Jack O’Connell, Eddie Marsan, Lesley Manville

Rated: R
Run Time: 2h 2m
Genres: Biography, Drama, Music


Rating contributor: ShariK.Green tmc
I'm the Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager for I write, direct and produce short films with my production company, Good Stew Productions. Though it's difficult to answer this question when asked, I'd say my favorite movie is “The Big Chill.” I enjoy photography, poetry, and hiking and I adore animals, especially elephants. I live in Arizona and feel it's an outstanding and inspirational place to live.

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