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How Should an Amy Winehouse Movie Be?

In another life, Sam Taylor-Johnson might have crossed paths with Amy Winehouse. The filmmaker and the singer had some mutual friends, “but we never met,” Taylor-Johnson said recently. “It was like a strange sliding doors moment,” she added:“I would arrive somewhere, and she would have just left.”

Taylor-Johnson is the director of “Back to Black,” a new biopic about Winehouse that stars Marisa Abela (“Industry”) as the beloved British singer. In the 13 years since Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning in her North London home at age 27, there has been a posthumous album, a tell-all memoir from her father, an Oscar-winning documentary and several museum exhibitions about her life.

Some of these projects — most notably the 2015 documentary, “Amy” — emphasized how ferocious public and tabloid interest in her personal life fueled Winehouse’s addictions. (In a review of that documentary for The Times, Manohla Dargis wrote, “What’s startling now is to realize that we were all watching her die.”)

For Taylor-Johnson, it was time to create a narrative that celebrated Winehouse for “her great achievements,” she said. A documentary is a forensic breakdown of someone’s life, Taylor-Johnson added, whereas she saw her own film as “more poetic.”

Sam Taylor-Johnson said she had ignored reviews of “Back to Black.” “If a friend starts to tell me, I hang up on them,” the director said. “I don’t want to be thrown off my path.”Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

“Back to Black,” which opens in theaters in the United States on May 17, revolves around Winehouse’s turbulent relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, an on-off romance that inspired the artist’s soul-inflected album of the same name. “She tells her story through the narrative of her songs,” said Taylor-Johnson. Using the lyrics as the movie’s main source material put Winehouse’s perspective at the center, she said.

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