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Back to Black

The music biopic train certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With Elvis in 2022, Maestro last year and Bob Marley: One Love arriving just a couple of months ago. With A Complete Unknown (Bob Dylan), Michael (Michael Jackson) & Deliver Me from Nowhere (Bruce Springsteen) all in the pipeline. Unfortunately, a lot of this genre does consistently fall into familiar territory and Back to Black is no exception.


The latest music biopic to arrive on the big screen. Back to Black shows the life and music of Amy Winehouse (Marisa Abela), through the journey of adolescence to adulthood and the creation of one of the best-selling albums of our time.


Whilst its perfectly watchable, this feature is largely pointless due to the existence of the excellent 2015 documentary Amy, which is a far more cohesive, emotional, informative and fitting tribute and exploration of the life of Amy Winehouse. This film can’t seem to find its footing in terms of structure and focus: jumping from Amy’s club singing days, launching us to her first hit record Frank, meeting Blake (Jack O’Connell), their whirlwind toxic relationship, her jetting to New York and then wrapping up around the release Back to Black.

It just feels jumbled and lacks substance, which is a shame as there are handful of scenes that effectively presented: the relationship between Amy and her Grandmother (Lesley Manville) is the heart of the film and the sequence where Amy falls for Blake (accompanied by The Shangri-Las) is a highlight. It’s a shame that due to the tragic habits of the film’s subject and the embellished, altered aspects of the truth, it can come across as still feeling on the exploitative/icky side.

Back to Black

Stylistically the film doesn’t particularly standout and from a visual perspective is largely bog standard. The soundtrack is strong, with Amy’s hits littered throughout and interspersed with her jazz influences and British indie tunes of the time. Marisa Abela does certainly embody the swagger, physicality and attitude of Winehouse and fair play to her for choosing to sing herself. Jack O’Connell’s hopped up, brash demeanour captures what enticed Amy to Blake. Lesley Manville’s supportive and calming parental guidance is prominent and whilst Eddie Marsan captures Mitch’s boundless enthusiasm for his daughter’s career, you can’t help but feel that he (and also Blake), have their negative aspects watered down.

Back to Black is a mixed bag that largely falls into the average side of biopics and is rendered largely pointless due to the superior documentary. Whilst the performances are committed and enthusiastic, with a few notable standout scenes, this is lacking substance and focus overall.


Rating Back to Black



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