Bob Marley: One Love
Based on the true story of the magical musician himself, Bob Marley: One Love is a biopic that celebrates the artist’s brief life from the humblest of beginnings in rural Jamaica to his eventual rise to superstardom. Focusing mainly on one period of his life and the turmoil unfolding between the left and right wings of Jamaican politics, director Reinaldo Marcus Green brings forward a feature film full of heart, truth and wisdom, with the help of the Marley family to ensure its legitimacy.
It is instantly established that Marley is a genuine kind soul, and we can see the purity pouring out of Kingsley Ben-Adir, who delivers the performance of his career as the reggae legend. He looks like Marley, sounds like Marley, has infectious energy and is utterly terrific alongside Lashana Lynch as the ever-powerful Rita Marley, making the duo a convincingly determined on-screen couple. We dive into the story at a crucial moment in their relationship as they are both shot and injured during a politically motivated home invasion, and fast become aware of their desires and beliefs as Rastafaris. There is a feeling of authenticity about any storyline involving both Rita and Bob, most likely because of the family involvement in the production of the film, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.
The film couldn’t tell Bob Marley’s story without including a number of his hit songs on the soundtrack and subtly hiding them in the score. In Bob Marley: One Love, you get the full buffet selection, from Buffalo Soldier to Redemption Song, No Woman, No Cry to Could You Be Loved. Naturally, the music plays a huge role in this movie, carrying both the narrative and most of the scenes, and you can’t help but smile each time a melody rings out or Marley assembles his band in the living room to give birth to a new track. Jamaica is shown off in all its beauty and glory thanks to cinematographer Robert Elswit and the music editing is masterful, as Ben-Adir’s voice is blended with Marley’s to create an authentic sound.
However, Ben-Adir, Lynch and the music do a lot of the heavy lifting because the screenplay itself lacks a significant amount of depth. Characters talk endlessly about “spreading the message”, but we never get to see the effect Marley’s music had on people. It would have been nice to see how other’s lives were affected and changed thanks to his tireless work. As the band’s fame grows, they embark on a European tour, trading in red stripe and vinyl players for champagne and evening dinners, much to the displeasure of Rita who feels they are losing who they really are and their true purpose. But this is about as far as the drama develops before it is established that Marley might not have long left to live, leaving the viewer asking why so much was left out of the plot.
It could be argued that Bob Marley: One Love in fact falls short of a biopic, as it barely delves beneath the surface and into the past to establish what made the man grow to be the king of reggae. It makes for enjoyable viewing despite this, but you can’t help but think more exciting stones were left unturned.
Bob Marley: One Love is released nationwide on 14th February 2024.
Watch the trailer for Bob Marley: One Love here: