‘Bob Marley: One Love’ movie review: Opaque biopic elevated by Kingsley Ben-Adir’s performance

Though the movie does not dig too deeply into Bob Marley’s multifaceted genius, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s respectful musical drama offers a chance to listen to all those glorious Reggae anthems on Dolby surround sound 

Updated - February 18, 2024 11:45 am IST

Published - February 18, 2024 11:33 am IST

A still from ‘Bob Marley: One Love’

A still from ‘Bob Marley: One Love’ | Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Bob Marley: One Loveis yet another chance to revisit the soundtrack of one’s youth, of being rebels without a pause, of joining the Exodus, the movement of the people. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green whose King Richard got Will Smith an Oscar post slap-gate, zooms by Bob Marley’s important songs and signposts.

Fairly linear, with some back and forth, the movie focuses on Marley’s life between 1976 and 1978. There is the assassination attempt on December 3, 1976, two days before Smile Jamaica, a free concert, to broker peace between warring political parties. Marley ((Kingsley Ben-Adir), his wife Rita (Lashana Lynch) and manager Don (Anthony Welsh) were shot at in Marley’s home. Rita and Don were seriously injured while Marley escaped with minor injuries on his chest and arm. The concert went ahead as planned.

Marley moves to England while sending Rita and the children including Ziggy, who incidentally is the producer of the film, to Delaware in the U.S. to be with Marley’s mother. In London, Marley is arrested for possession of marijuana. Marley wishes to create a new sound and asks Rita to join him as he feels he is unable to create music without her.

Bob Marley: One Love (English) 
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton
Run-time: 104 minutes
Storyline: The story of Jamaican music legend, Bob Marley, focusing on his years of self-imposed exile in England

Once Rita joins him, it leads to the creation of the seminal Exodus, the album that propelled the already popular Marley to international fame. The fact that Marley decided on the name of the album before writing the song is referred to in the movie. Marley heard the soundtrack of the film, Exodus, and decided it was a suitable name for his tenth studio album.

Music publicist Howard Bloom (Michael Gandolfini) is distressed that the album cover does not feature Marley’s face on it and the font he insists on is reminiscent of a “Cecil B DeMille film” and the Bible, which “young people do not like.” However Marley has the last laugh as Exodus goes on to hit platinum internationally.

The incessant touring puts strains on Marley’s relationship with Rita as well as Don. The touring also has an effect on Marley’s health who says he does not have the time to get his broken toenail, which does not heal, seen by a doctor. The film rolls with the urban legend of it being the result of an injury on the football field. When Marley finally consults a doctor, he is diagnosed with an aggressive skin cancer. Refusing to go under the knife as it would interfere with his touring, the film ends with Marley’s triumphant return to Jamaica for the One Love Peace Concert in April, 1978.

Title cards reveal Marley’s death in 1981 at the age of 36 and the fact that he finally was able to perform in Africa. There is also archival footage of Marley and Ben-Adir has done a good job of centering Marley’s dreads, charm and spirituality. Lynch makes for a fiery Rita while James Norton as record producer Chris Blackwell provides able support.

Marley’s Rastafarian beliefs as well as his issues with abandonment thanks to his father’s rejection are alluded to but not dealt with in much detail. Bob Marley: One Love is a fair enough introduction to Marley’s work, a greatest-hits play list, without ‘Buffalo Soldier’ though.

Bob Marley: One Love is currently running in theatres

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