‘Close to home’: Camden locals applaud Amy Winehouse biopic

<span>Marisa Abela played the role of Amy Winehouse and Jack O'Connell her boyfriend, Blake Fielder-Civil, in the biopic.</span><span>Photograph: Courtesy of Dean Rogers/Courtesy of Dean Rogers/Focus Features</span>
Marisa Abela played the role of Amy Winehouse and Jack O'Connell her boyfriend, Blake Fielder-Civil, in the biopic.Photograph: Courtesy of Dean Rogers/Courtesy of Dean Rogers/Focus Features

After the controversy and a slew of negative reviews in the run-up to the release of the Amy Winehouse biopic Back to Black, Grace and her mum, Jetta, were apprehensive about coming to see the film.

“My daughter said to me: ‘Oh, I’ve heard really bad things about it.’ So I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like, but when it started, I thought she sounds like her, talks like her and she had the look,” Jetta says. “It wasn’t perfect but you can’t expect somebody to be Amy.”

While the pair, who described themselves as “Camden born and bred”, were pleasantly surprised, they thought the film glossed over bad parts of Winehouse’s life, particularly her relationships with ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil and her father, Mitch Winehouse.

“Her ex-husband had a light ride actually,” Jetta says.

Grace nods in agreement, before adding: “All other things I’ve watched about Amy, like the documentary, have sort of painted [Mitch] in a really negative light. I think they could have done more on his part in pushing her into fame but I mean, it’s hard to get from every side, I guess.

“To get that in depth into the behind the scenes of her whole story, some of those people will have had to have been a part of it and a part of writing the script,” she adds. “I think you have to take it with a pinch of salt.”

The film follows Winehouse’s life from early adulthood to her death from alcohol poisoning in 2011. Much of the film is set in Camden, where she lived out her 20s.

Gopi and Raakhee came to Camden to watch the film on the day of its release in homage to Amy.

“We were told the bad reviews before we watched it so when we were watching it, we were worried we might have to walk out,” Raakhee says, “but actually we thought it was quite a good depiction of her.”

Gopi says that Marisa Abela, who plays Amy, was a good likeness to her. “You look at that you have to double take because that’s her, that’s Amy there,” she says, pointing to a poster for the film.

“She can’t look exactly like Amy because she’s too unique … and doesn’t have Amy’s edge but she manages to portray her mannerisms and her accent, and the way that she talked was the way that Amy talked.”

Vala Magnadóttir, who has lived in Camden for the past 20 years, also says she thought the film accurately portrayed the borough at the time. “I really enjoyed it, I really did,” she says. “I really only knew the music at the time. I had some idea of what was going on, but seeing journalists, a bunch of men, that was quite shocking.

“I live quite close and spotted the landmarks but you think ‘oh, wow, all that was going on just so close to my home’ and you weren’t aware, it was quite a shock.”

Magnadóttir says she was convinced by Abela’s performance as Winehouse and was surprised by how well she captured the singer’s voice. “The singing was beautiful, absolutely gorgeous.

“I knew there was some controversy, but I didn’t really follow it … I mean, she’s obviously not Amy because she’s an actress. Give people a break,” she says.

“I thought it was a really, really nice, beautiful film.”