BACK TO BLACK – A Review by Jenn Rohm

BACK TO BLACK – A Review by Jenn Rohm

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and writer Matt Greenhalgh’s vision of Amy Winehouse in Back to Black has made it to the big screen.  While I hoped to learn more about the talented artist, this film did not deliver.  We have been given a sugar-coated love letter that will generate new fans for her music.  Covering the last 10 years of her life, and then with a passing glance at the information between songs, it did not delve into how young she was when she started writing and performing, nor did it truly go into her relationship with her parents and their impact on her life.  There is also this thread from a one-time comment about wanting to be a mother someday that has more gravitas than her struggle with bulimia.

Marisa Abela has done her best with the script and direction provided to represent Amy Winehouse. She is more than just mirroring mannerisms from watching footage; this is full-on sketching of Winehouse.  To keep it more realistic, Abela sang rather than lip-synching.  It is not Amy’s unique sound, but it does come close, and there is power in her voice.  Abela is not an “identical twin” to Winehouse; the talents of the hair, make-up, and costume magicians assist with closing some of the gaps between them.  Like in life, as time passes in the film and her popularity grows, so does her beehive and winged eyeliner.     

Also key in the cast are Jack O’Connell as Blake and Eddie Marsan as Mitch.  Both actors could have delivered so much more had the script asked them to do so.  Lesley Manville is Cynthia, Winehouse’s paternal grandmother and style icon.  I will be digging into Nan’s history a bit more as she has her own history in the world of jazz music.

If this had been released as a movie inspired by Amy Winehouse’s life or a “could have happened like this” (like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), I would have rated it higher.  The movie itself is a good movie.  With this being a biopic, certain expectations to use facts existed.  However, so much of the true story is missing, and parts are 100% ignored or overlooked, that it brings down all the hard work put into it.


Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

Written By: Matt Greenhalgh

Cast: Marisa Abela, Eddie Marsan, Jack O’Connell

MPAA Rating: Rated R for drug use, language throughout, sexual content, and nudity.


Selig Rating: 2.5 stars

Runtime: 2h 2m

Release Date: May 17, 2024

Trailer: Back to Black trailer

Website: Back to Black website


The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.

4 Stars – Good movie/show

3 Stars – OK movie/show

2 Stars – Well, there was nothing else…

1 Star – Total waste of time.

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