#SheReviews Amy Winehouse Biopic – Back to Black

April 12, 2024

I am a huge Amy Winehouse fan. Her music is simply timeless. When asked to review the new Amy Winehouse biopic, Back to Black, directed by Sam Taylor – Johnson, I was delighted. I immediately began playing the album ‘Back to Black’ on repeat.

Sam is also a huge fan and has created a film told from Amy’s perspective. She wanted to show how bold, brave, emotional and funny Amy was and that she was more than just the tragedy of her death. The film is a mix of tragic love story, charting a rise to fame and a cautionary tale about the unrelenting star machine. This fabulous film takes us on a deep dive into Amy’s short but eventful life.

Amy Winehouse blazed bright in the British music scene before conquering the world. Hers was a once – in – a – generation talent. With her distinctive voice, heart wrenching songs and unique look she became one of the world’s best loved female voices and artists, winning six Grammy awards along the way. But Amy’s life was bigger than her and as her star rose, she found herself wrestling with her demons including alcohol dependency, drugs, self harm and bulimia. Back to Black shares her story, painting a vivid and vibrant picture of the streets of Camden town which she called home, her love life and capturing some of the struggles of global fame.

Her lyrics were written with her heart on her sleeve and spoke to us all. From the prophetic ‘Rehab’, ‘You Know I’m No Good’, ‘Tears Dry on Their Own’, ‘Love Is a Losing Game’, ‘Valerie’ through to the album title ‘Back to Black’. Each and every song is a hit filled with a mix of jazz, soul and jukebox favourites and many are included in the film. It also traces many of her influences and we were not surprised to see Nick Cave and Warren Ellis writing the the score.


We meet Amy as a boy loving, guitar playing, songwriting teen from Camden. She adores her Nan and lives with her Mum, while doting on her estranged taxi driving Dad, Mitch. She is on the cusp of fame and soon signs with the 19 Management, but she is no Spice Girl.

Amy’s first album ‘Frank’ wins critical acclaim in Britain but is deemed unsuitable for the American market. While Amy takes a break to find new material, she meets Blake in a pub and falls head over heels for this charming larrikin punter. Their meeting is a lovely scene.

Their relationship seems toxic and after breaking up and getting back together multiple times, heartbreak fuels Winehouse’s acclaimed ‘Back to Black’ album. We see her heartbreak, her battles with addiction, her tours, her tears and loneliness as she grapples with fame in her own headstrong way.

I felt the film glossed over some facets of Amy Winehouse’s life but presented us with a love story filled with light and dark. It showed Amy’s love of family, love of music and love of men. It’s a shame that Amy seemed destined to not love herself fully. She died at only 27 from alcohol poisoning after a long bout of abstinence.


British actor, Marisa Abela is magnificent as Amy. She nails her look, nuance and style while performing the songs beautifully. Sometimes I had to remind myself that it was not Amy on screen.

Her boyfriend Blake was played well by Jack O’ Connell who is in turns charming lovable larrikin and in part dangerous drug addict. His bad boy character is attractive to Winehouse in a way that other kinder men aren’t, as evidenced in an early scene.

I loved Lesley Manville as Amy’s Nan. She was a former glamorous nightclub singer from the 50’s who Amy idolised, Amy even copied her look and Manville truly seemed to care in this lovely role. Their scenes together brought this writer to tears. Amy’s dad, Mitch plays a big role in the film and is portrayed sympathetically by Eddie Marsan.

Back to Black tells of the life of Amy Winehouse in shades of black and white, highs and lows, love and heartbreak. It reminds us of a star that shone brightly, but who was human, with all the human foibles. It’s also a cautionary tale of fame and the many stars who are forevermore a part of the 27 club. My husband and I both enjoyed delving back into the life of a talent we both loved so much. It was an emotional drama filled with plenty of love and hope.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.