‘Back to Black’ brings Amy Winehouse story to big screen

May15,2024


Director Sam Taylor-Johnson, left, and actor Marisa Abela attend the premiere of 'Back to Black' at AMC Lincoln Square on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 in New York.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson, left, and actor Marisa Abella attend the premiere of 'Back to Black' at AMC Lincoln Square on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 in New York | Photo Credit: Evan Agostini

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson didn't want his 2024 biographical drama about late British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse to be too similar to Asif Kapadia's 2015 Oscar-winning documentary.

“I felt like I had to make something different in the documentary,” Taylor-Johnson said of her film “Back to Black.”

The British filmmaker said, “It needed to feel like a different perspective, and I thought the best perspective to give her was to really allow her to tell her story through her music.”

The film, distributed by Focus Features, chronicles Winehouse's upbringing in a Jewish family, her career, romance, and the addiction that led to her death.

The six-time Grammy-winning artist was known for blending elements of jazz, soul, rhythm and blues.

While reviews of the film have so far been extremely negative from critics in the United Kingdom and Ireland, many believe that lead actress Marisa Abela, playing Winehouse, has given a successful performance.

The Guardian critic Wendy Eyde wrote in her review, “There are moments when Abella disappears and Winehouse bursts onto the screen, like a magic eye photograph momentarily coming into focus.”

He added, “But the film is wildly uneven and plagued by catastrophic misjudgments.”

His review is one of many criticizing the film on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, which has so far given the film a poor rating of 38%.

Sam Taylor-Johnson, left, Jack O'Connell, Juliet Cowan, Marisa Abela and Eddie Marsan attend the premiere of 'Back to Black' at AMC Lincoln Square on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 in New York.

Sam Taylor-Johnson, left, Jack O'Connell, Juliet Cowan, Marisa Abella and Eddie Marsan attend the premiere of 'Back to Black' at AMC Lincoln Square on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 in New York | Photo Credit: Evan Agostini

However, the film's UK and Ireland box office numbers did not reflect the negative reviews, as the film topped both box offices in its opening week.

More reviews will be added after the film hits U.S. theaters on Friday.

Abela spent 12 months trying to capture every aspect of Winehouse, but she knew she would never be able to perfectly capture the “Rehab” singer.

“There are so many different versions of Amy, and it's almost like, the more you know, the less you know, because she's so huge and omnipresent,” Abela said.

When Abela spoke to people involved in Winehouse's life, including her father, her friends, her coworkers, and others, each person had a different opinion on the most important thing about her.

Despite a series of inputs, Abela found a definite connection to Winehouse by wearing her clothes.

Taylor-Johnson said, “We actually managed to pull some of Amy's original clothes so that Marissa would be wearing Amy's clothes, so the level of detail was very important.” (Reporting by Rollo Ross and Danielle Broadway; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis)

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