Back To Black: An Amy Winehouse Biopic.

Words: Samantha Harman

May 2024

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Movie Review.

Amy Winehouse is played by unknown actress, Marisa Abela, whose vocals are used throughout. In a recent interview with Virgin Radio, she revealed moving to Camden prior to filming, to help with character immersion. Let’s face it, those are big stilettos to fill and I was unsure of the casting prior to seeing the film. However, in Marisa’s favour, there were times when watching I almost forgot it wasn’t Amy. The actress mimics Winehouse’s sass and mannerisms to a T, with wardrobe doing an unbelievable job at emulating Amy’s signature outfits.

The onscreen relationship between Amy and her late grandmother, Cynthia (played by Lesley Manville) depicts the unparalleled  bond between the pair. Cynthia was Amy’s best friend and style icon and it was her nan’s 1960s look that inspired the iconic beehive and heavy black eyeliner. Many tear jerking moments ensued during scenes featuring the two, especially when a terminally ill Cynthia says goodbye to Amy when she leaves to record her album in the states. 

Blake Fielder-Civil received a glow-up in the form of actor Jack O’Connel, who played an absolute blinder. The flirtatious banter depicting the time Blake and Amy met over a game of pool in Camden, was well executed, as was the ensuing chaos. The film shows the couple caught in the throes of addiction, constantly hounded by press, their darkest moments used as tabloid fodder. 

Mitch, Amy’s father, was portrayed by Eddie Marson, who gave a solid performance capturing the old-school Cockney dad. What people need to remember is that here is a man who lost his daughter and Eddie’s portrayal (coupled with the script) is testament to that. Whatever your personal views on Mitch are, the film chooses to gloss over any alleged wrongdoing. 

The thing with Amy Winehouse is that her down to earth nature meant she felt accessible. Fans wanted to protect her during her vulnerable moments and are still devastated by her untimely death. It could be argued that making this film at a time when feelings are still raw may have been ill judged. However, the overriding feeling I was left with after watching, is this. She was just a girl who wanted to love and be loved. She was passionate about creating music but didn’t care about fame or its trappings. Her duality of strength and vulnerability were conveyed perfectly. Amy was powerful and yet broken all at the same time, a surprising juxtaposition that was the core of her mass appeal. It is impossible to capture the essence of such an icon, who is and always will be eternally adored, but Back to Black captured a tiny glimmer of her and that was enough for me. 

Go and see it. 

StudioCanal made the feature film entitled ‘Back to Black’. Sam Taylor-Johnson directed from a script by Matt Greenhalgh.

Now showing at Duke of York Cinema Brighton.

Steven Graham
Author: Steven Graham

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