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'Back To Black', An Intimate Glance At The Late, Great Amy Winehouse


Amy Winehouse fans can rejoice, as new movie, Back to Black, chronicles the rise to fame of the diminutive songstress. And while Amy left an indelible mark on the music industry, the film delves into how her personal life, and love life, provided the impetus for many of her greatest hits.

The movie begins with Amy, (Marisa Abela), admiring vintage photographs of her nan, her style icon, her ‘everything icon’. It becomes apparent that her nan is the inspiration behind her iconic look- fierce winged liner, beehive hairdo, and pinup attire. Marisa does an excellent job not only of singing much loved tunes, but also of showing the vulnerable, sweet and fresh-faced side of Winehouse.

After becoming acquainted with the softer side of Amy’s personality, it’s not long before the cracks begin to show and she develops a hard shell, mostly accelerated by her meeting the love of her life, Blake, played by Jack O’ Connell. While I’ve been told this movie portrays Blake and Amy’s father (Eddie Marsan), in a far more sympathetic way than the ‘warts and all’ documentary, it’s still abundantly evident that Amy and Blake are, together, a passionate yet toxic union. Their relationship ping pongs backwards and forwards enough to give us whiplash, as they oscillate between being girlfriend and boyfriend, broken up, back together, husband and wife, and then divorced.

Rebecca Gisborne standing in front of an Amy Winehouse poster for biopic Back To Black
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Throughout the relationship turmoil, the film sensitively tackles the difficult issues of Amy’s life- her abuse of Blake, bulimia, substance abuse, and dislike of the rabid media. Though some issues are covered only fleetingly, there’s no getting away from laying bare her alcohol and ultimately drug dependence. Those who want a starker look into her problems are probably better off watching the documentary, as the movie provides a soulful and gentle glimpse that never truly alights on a topic long enough to reveal Amy’s true depths of despair.

While this tribute does, in some ways, have a more ‘rose coloured glasses’ approach, it’s a beautiful and moving ode to a troubled yet mesmerising young woman, who was sadly gone too soon. She was, as she said, an anachronism- a 27-year-old in a modern world, with a vintage aesthetic, and a savage yet sweet yet oddly vulnerable personality. Like many of us, her paradoxical traits sometimes seemed at odds with each other, and her immense talent, turbulent personal life and unique look, made her a constant target for the media. The by then emaciated Amy was constantly playing a game of ‘cat and mouse’ with the media, and the movie leaves unspoken a question of how much they contributed to her spiralling poor mental health. At the end of the 122 minutes, I enjoyed this film very much, and was reminded of the poignancy of the death of a woman who many of us can relate to, in one way or another. This film shows Amy was a force to be reckoned with, a daughter, a lover, a grand-daughter and a much beloved performer. And sadly, when it came to the media and even after her demise and to this day, just another cog in an exceedingly well-oiled machine.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2

Thank you to Studio Canal Australia, NRC Agency and Event Cinemas Innaloo for inviting me to the advanced screening. 


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