Bob Marley: One Love

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Bob Marley: One Love
dir Reinaldo Marcus Green
scr Terence Winter, Frank E Flowers, Zach Baylin, Reinaldo Marcus Green
prd Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Ziggy Marley, Rita Marley, Cedella Marley
with Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton, Anthony Welsh, Micheal Ward, Tosin Cole, Michael Gandolfini, Nadine Marshall, Sam Palladio, Umi Myers, Naomi Cowan, Sundra Oakley
release US/UK 16.Feb.24
24/US Paramount 1h44

lynch norton welsh
See also:
Marley 2012

Is it streaming?

Bob Marley's life and message are so powerful that they shine even in a biopic as out of balance as this. It certainly wasn't necessary to strain so hard to create a messianic portrait of such a world-changing musician, but this version of his story is scrubbed clean of anything that doesn't promote the myth, leaving him looking like a monk. Thankfully Kingsley Ben-Adir's performance contains flashes of genius.
Already a star in 1976 Jamaica, Bob (Ben-Adir) is trying to unify the nation's warring political parties when he is targeted by gunmen. He sends his injured wife Rita (Lynch) to America with their children and heads to London with his band, where they try to develop their musical style, go on a European tour and plan another one in Africa, even though their loyal record label executive Chris (Norton) would prefer them to tour America. Finally the time comes to face the music, and Bob heads home to perform a One Love concert.
Even though the story itself bristles with important themes, director Green never quite trusts the material, bending it to suit an overstated agenda (essentially what he did with King Richard as well). This film completely glosses over anything remotely challenging, presenting the most easily digestible version of a very complex man. At least it's beautifully shot in gorgeous Jamaican locations with an extended interlude in troubled late-1970s London. So the film looks great, and is packed with terrific music.

Ben-Adir adds layers to his performance that make Marley an intriguing, thoughtful person, grappling with internal demons that are never very clearly defined (his father was a white British officer!) while sharply evoking his Rastafarian belief in unity and peace. Other characters, including Lynch in what should be a more pivotal role, flit around the edges, entering the story rather randomly and never quite establishing their presence. So any sense of Marley's relationships is limited to subtext.

While many viewers will be able to accept this version of the story as inspirational, anyone who has seen Kevin Macdonald's insightful 2012 doc Marley will immediately see the problem here. Removing this man's humanity does the opposite of what these filmmakers intended: it leaves him looking oddly simplistic, aimless and idealistic rather than fiery and passionate. This film perhaps works as an introduction, but a deeper dive reveals a properly important man who still has something vital to say.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 6.Feb.24

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