Bob Marley: One Love – Film Review

“An artist who changed the world” is normally a clichéd line used by music publicists to sell an artist but when it comes to the legendary Bob Marley description is completely apt.

Marley, who at the time was really only known in Jamaica, suddenly burst onto the world music scene when a political uprising in his home country sparked a fire inside him to unify the people through music. That fire soon spread around the world and many of the world’s downtrodden and victimised used his music as anthems of hope.

With that in mind, I went into Bob Marley: One Love expecting something pretty special. I was expecting a film that would take a deep dive into the events that caused Marley’s radical change, but more importantly a film that would thoroughly explore his lyrics and legacy. Instead, what I got was a virtual Greatest Hits compilation that barely scratched the surface of the great man’s life.

The beginning of the film gave me hope. Here, director Reinaldo Marcus Green and his team of screenwriters show in almost real time the political upheaval of Jamaica in the mid-1970s that sees Bob Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) want to stand up and do something to try and bring peace to the country and people that he loves.

That ‘thing’ turned out to be a concert, but things didn’t go as he planned. As soon as the media begun to report on his brilliant idea, Bob and his wife, Rita (Lashana Lynch), find theirs and their children’s lives in danger. But instead of running from the danger, Bob decides to press ahead and try his best to unify those around him and soon realises just how dangerous that decision might be.

I found all of this part of the story was brought to the screen amazingly well. Scenes of Marley driving through the unrest to get to rehearsals and meetings were gritty and so realistic, you could be excused for thinking that you were watching a documentary. Even the scenes handling Marley’s spiritual beliefs were shot in such a beautiful manner. But once Marley experienced his life changing moment, the film went downhill.

To be honest, I couldn’t believe the change in the film’s tone for the second half of the film. It felt that once Marley and his band were removed from the Jamaican setting, the film suffered for it. The supposed deep dive into his music and lyrics turned into scenes of him sitting in meetings discussing what he wanted to do and then a quick cut to a studio while the band recorded one of their greatest hits. Given that some of those tracks had nothing to do with Marley’s spiritual movement, I can only guess they were included in the film because the filmmakers thought it would be something that the audience would recognise and might shift a few units of the soundtrack.

Even some of the more important things that were going on in Marley’s life at the time were simply brushed over. The tension within the band and within his family was depicted in a couple of scenes that should have been a lot more dramatic than they were, while the racism that he faced in the UK and Europe was shown but needed to be a more prominent and important theme of the film.

The trailer suggested that the filmmakers wanted this film to give the people of today the same hope that Marley’s music did. So, given the on-going issue of racism in Europe today, you would think this film could have shown more of how Bob Marley worked to overcome what he faced.

The one thing I cannot fault with Bob Marley: One Love are the performances of its cast. Kingsley Ben-Adir is sensational in the leading role. He doesn’t appear to be ‘playing’ Bob Marley. It felt like he became Bob Marley, his performance was just that believable. The scenes that he shares with Lashana Lynch are phenomenal and credit must also be paid to Nia Ashi and Quan-Dajai Henriques who depict the teenage versions of Bob and Rita in the flashbacks. The chemistry between them makes these scenes some of the most powerful in the film.

Sadly, I found that Bob Marley: One Love doesn’t do the great man or his legacy justice. If the film had stuck with the gritty and dramatic nature of the first half hour, then it could have become one of the great music biopics. However, filmmaker’s choice to make the second half feel like a glossy tabloid magazine just didn’t work. A real shame, given the message of hope in Bob Marley: One Love that could have provided for a new generation.

Sign up to receive weekly updates on our most recent reviews.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *