Back to Black: A Review of the Amy Winehouse Film

Amy Winehouse. The magic age of 27. The age when modern music geniuses often depart this world, joining the super group in the sky alongside legends like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. Will it be heaven or hell for them, I wonder?

I’ve only experienced Amy Winehouse’s concerts through TV broadcasts and the written word in documentaries and newspaper reports. This film dives straight in, portraying where Winehouse drew her inspiration: from the old jazz crooners of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. These influences were not limited to men but included the great women singers of those eras as well. She often dressed up in a way that reminded her of her grandmother, donning high beehives that echoed the elegance and class of the past. Yet, Amy Winehouse was unique—her soul spilled into our lives, making us forget our troubles, if only for a few moments.

Her duty was to be herself, to pursue what she wanted: a partner in life and six children. Unfortunately, her fame, which she was never interested in, got in the way. This film features impressive performances by Marisa Abela, Leslie Manville, Eddie Marsan, and Jack O’Connell. It’s a must-see, especially for those familiar with the backdrop of Camden Town and London. It brought back many memories for me, of a time when you could see live bands very cheaply in almost every local pub.

Was it sad? Of course, it was. Is there a message? Maybe. Perhaps being average isn’t such a bad place to be. Every now and then, in your situation in life, you score the winning goal and can compare yourself to a genius. To be happy in the present, chugging along.

I still wonder what a follow-up album from Amy Winehouse would have sounded like. Would she have fulfilled her dream of being normal? It’s been 13 years since she passed. Perhaps we can fantasize and fill in the gaps. One thing is certain: she was a one-off, a brilliant singer-songwriter, and an inspiration. I’ll always remember her walking into Ronnie Scott’s with her dad, uttering the words, “It’s Toxic.”