Back To Black – The DVDfever Cinema Review – Marisa Abela

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Back To Black is the film about the life of the late Amy Winehouse, which her family wants to bring to the screen, following the mediocre 2015 documentary, Amy, which had a lot of critical acclaim, but I found severely lacking, and those closest to her and still mourning her had much to criticise about it.

Personally, I’m not a great fan of her music, the way – as also depicted here, where she’s swaying her head while singing like a cat being strangled – although the title track is fantastic.

As such, I was surprised I was drawn into this film so much, and that’s largely down to a brilliant performance from Marisa Abela (Barbie) as the late singer, who – possibly controversially – performs all the songs, but does a cracking job, although I was only really sure of that once I saw a comparison of her vs. the original.

Beyond Ms Abela, the plot plays out fairly standard for a time, as she gets encouragement from her family, signs a record deal – as long as they play it her way, because “I ain’t no Spice Girl” and, thus, acts only on her own terms, even walking out of the studio at one point because she doesn’t get her own way all the time.

There are other elements it also skips past, such as the early scene where Amy tells her father, Mitch (Eddie MarsanThe Thief His Wife and the Canoe), to be mindful of the fact that the matriarch of the family, Janis (Juliet CowanThe Power), is ill, yet is then never mentioned until she pops up later on, and instead giving her a sole mother figure in her grandma, Cynthia (Lesley ManvilleThe Crown Season 6).

So, there’s a gap, there – along with a mention how she’ll be producing music with Mark Ronson, yet we don’t see anyone playing him because he’s not brought on-camera, but it’s possible the filmmakers wanted to bring this all in around the two-hour mark, as well as going into a fair amount of detail with the tempestuous relationship with her husband-to-be, Blake Fielder-Civil, with Jack O’Connell (Ferrari) also putting on a great performance, and making even a druggie seem likeable, as he leads her from alcohol and weed, and on to crack, and joking her perfume is “Chanel Number Pub“.

It was certainly a tragedy, that while Amy Winehouse did eventually go to rehab and got clean of the drugs, and became sober for a fair while, the amount of booze she’d previously caned led to her passing away from alcohol poisoning, although at least for a time along the way, she could find a good place writing songs because they helped her “make something good out of something bad“.

Overall, if you’re on the fence as to whether to watch Back To Black, I would certainly recommend it, partly to get the timeline of events of Amy’s rise and fall, but especially for Marisa Abela’s stellar performance. It’s a shame this was released past the Oscar/BAFTA period, as she could’ve been in with a shout. She could come around for this next time, but then a whole load of other films will have been released, so this one will get lost in the melee.

Back To Black is in cinemas now, and is available to pre-order on 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD, ahead of its release date TBA.

Back To Black – Official Trailer – Studiocanal UK

Detailed specs:

Running time: 122 minutes
Release date: April 12th 2024
Studio: Studiocanal UK
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Cinema: Odeon Trafford Centre
Rating: 8/10

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Producers: Nicky Kentish Barnes, Debra Hayward, Alison Owen
Screenplay: Matt Greenhalgh
Music: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis

Amy Winehouse: Marisa Abela
Blake Fielder-Civil: Jack O’Connell
Mitch Winehouse: Eddie Marsan
Cynthia Winehouse: Lesley Manville
Joey the dealer: Bronson Webb
Becky: Therica Wilson-Read
Janis Winehouse: Juliet Cowan
Nick Shymansky: Sam Buchanan
Juliette: Harley Bird
Raye Cosbert: Ansu Kabia
Tyler: Spike Fearn
Artist Development Man: Amrou Al-Kadhi
Chris Taylor: Ryan O’Doherty
Perfume Paul: Pete Lee-Wilson
Aunt Melody: Matilda Thorpe
Jimmy: Miltos Yerolemou
Uncle Harold: Michael S Siegel
Jane Winehouse: Tracey Lushington