Back to Black parents guide

Back to Black Parent Guide

Targeted to Amy Winehouse fans, this film is unlikely to appeal to a broader audience.

Overall D

Theaters: The story of Amy Winehouse's rise to fame, from humble beginnings in Camden to the writing of the album that made her a household name.

Release date May 17, 2024

Violence C
Sexual Content D
Profanity D
Substance Use D

Why is Back to Black rated R? The MPAA rated Back to Black R for drug use, language throughout, sexual content and nudity

Run Time: 122 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Amy Winehouse (Marisa Abela) has always loved to sing. As a child, she’d seize any opportunity to sing with her father Mitch (Eddie Marsan) and grandmother Cynthia, and it looks like an even bigger opportunity is right around the corner. Amy gets an offer to record an album with a big label and jumps at it. The album performs well, but the sudden change in lifestyle is unexpectedly difficult for the new star.

Being thrust into the public spotlight can be a burden, and the constant scrutiny both from the public and her record label are a challenge. Her pre-existing weakness for alcohol starts to pick up pace, and when she takes up with Blake (Jack O’Connell), she assumes worse habits. Hard drugs, heavy drinking, a heap of mental illness, and a world’s worth of stress start to take their toll.

When it isn’t busy being a bland and generic musical biopic, Back to Black manages to be interesting – mostly due to Marisa Abela, who both looks and sounds remarkably like the late singer. It’s an incredible evocation. The interesting parts of the story tend to be about Amy’s predilection for high-speed self-destruction. Too much drinking, too many drugs, and exactly one too many toxic co-dependent relationships.

Amy Winehouse had a genuinely tragic life. Some of that was undoubtedly of her own making, but she was given incredibly short shrift in the media. She was harassed by paparazzi, and, during most of my young life, she was a punch line for late show comics and internet dweebs. I think the movie shies away from the worst of it – both the addictions and the press – and that’s a mistake. It may just be a respectful courtesy to Winehouse, but I think it does her a disservice and undercuts the essential struggle of the film.

As you might expect, with a life like that, there isn’t much of the movie that makes the cut for family audiences. There are repeated scenes of drug and alcohol use, almost always to excess, and frequent scenes of smoking, swearing, and sex. There are several instances of violence, mostly scratching and slapping, and references to self-harm and bulimia. Amy Winehouse had more than her share of trouble, and the movie has a few difficulties of its own. Fans will likely enjoy the film – both for Marisa Abela’s standout performance and for the music, but I’m not sure this production is strong enough on its own to appeal to a broader audience.

Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson. Starring Marisa Abela, Eddie Marsan, Jack O'Connell. Running time: 122 minutes. Theatrical release May 17, 2024. Updated

Watch the trailer for Back to Black

Back to Black
Rating & Content Info

Why is Back to Black rated R? Back to Black is rated R by the MPAA for drug use, language throughout, sexual content and nudity

Violence: There are scenes of domestic violence in which a man is attacked by his female partner. Other assaults occur off screen and are mentioned by characters. People are seen with bloody injuries from assault and accidents.
Sexual Content: There are scenes of breast and buttock nudity, including one where people go skinny dipping. There are scenes where a man and woman undress each other and sex is implied.
Profanity: There are 65 sexual expletives and some use of crude terms for female genitalia. Scatological curses, terms of deity, and minor profanities are also frequently heard. A homophobic slur is heard in a song.
Drugs/Alcohol: An alcoholic is frequently seen to be intoxicated. A large number of characters smoke frequently. Ecstasy is discussed, a bag of marijuana is found, and people snort cocaine and smoke crack.

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Other drug-laden musical biopics include Ray, The Untied States vs. Billie Holiday, and Rocketman.