REVIEW: ‘Back to Black’ Biopic Disgraces Amy Winehouse’s Legacy

REVIEW: ‘Back to Black’ Biopic Disgraces Amy Winehouse’s Legacy

In the competitive realm of biographical films, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s (Fifty Shades of Grey, Nowhere Boy) Back to Black biopic—which supposedly honors the legacy of jazz-pop singer Amy Winehouse—is nothing short of a disgrace.

Winehouse's music, including the titular and Grammy-award-winning 2006 album Back to Black, resonated with millions from her raw, vulnerable lyrics to her deep and soulful voice. And yet, Taylor-Johnson’s film fails to capture even a fraction of that soul. Rather than celebrating her artistry, it reads like a cheap tabloid piece, reducing her life to sensationalized headlines and exploiting her struggles for a cash grab.

The one saving grace is Marisa Abela’s (Industry) stunning performance as Amy Winehouse. And though Abela effortlessly disappears into the role, the script does little justice to the complexity of Winehouse’s character. Rather than shedding light on her artistry and passion for music, the film portrays her as a lovesick addict on a quest for love and family, implying that her issues with alcohol stemmed from the fact that she couldn’t be a mother—when in reality the hardships she faced were far more complex. This oversimplification does a disservice to her memory and perpetuates harmful stereotypes about women in the music industry.

Amy Winehouse was more than just her toxic relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil—her husband from 2007-2009—yet the film seems fixated on this aspect of her life to the detriment of everything else. It's a cruel and dishonest portrayal that sugarcoats the harsh realities of her life.

According to a statement from Winehouse’s GP, Dr. Christina Romete, the night before she died she told Romete that after three weeks without a drink, she had started drinking again “because she was bored” and that “she specifically said she did not want to die.” This doesn’t sound like someone self sabotaging over a broken heart, but the film depicts otherwise. 

Worst of all, Back to Black implies that Amy Winehouse’s death was the defining moment of her life, overshadowing everything else she achieved. This reductionism is disrespectful and dangerously misleading, painting her as the tortured artist personified rather than a complex human being. 

Like many biopics in recent years, the pacing is erratic, jumping haphazardly through time without allowing the audience to truly connect with Amy's journey. By omitting and rearranging the events of her life, it twists the narrative into a tragic love story rather than a celebration of her talent and achievements during her short career—and offers no insight whatsoever into her creative process as an artist. 

In the end, Back to Black is not a tribute to Amy Winehouse but an insult to her legacy. It's a film that exploits her pain for profit and offers little in return. Amy deserved better, and so do her fans.