Bob Marley: One Love

Bob Marley: One Love 

(dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green)

By: Adam Freed

The world has never needed Bob Marley more than it does right now. In Kansas City children stand at a roadside to celebrate their victorious heroes, and leave on stretchers as victims of gun violence.  Wars rage in perpetuity in both Ukraine and Gaza marking the end of countless lives.  Bob Marley’s earthly existence ended nearly 43 years ago, but far from dead is his powerful vision of peace, love and unity.  If Marley’s unflappable belief in a better humanity was enough to bring political rivals and profiteering warlords together in his native Jamaica, perhaps the rest of the world should give it a try.  Bob Marley: One Love, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (King Richard) is an ode to the fallen reggae legend, which despite bogging itself down with biopic tropes, shares a topical message that rises above some of the film's more obvious shortcomings.  

Most notable of the valid critiques of Bob Marley: One Love is the film’s over reliance on title cards to fill in the narrative gaps at both the onset and close of the film.  This choice however is in support of the positive decision to narrow One Love’s focus to a pivotal stretch in Marley’s life from 1976-1979, a choice that many biopics haven't had the courage to employ.  By limiting the film’s narrative scope it allows for flashbacks to fill in some of the informational gaps pertaining to Marley’s early years, while maintaining a pace that promotes audience engagement.

The walkaway winner of One Love is without question Kinglsey Ben-Adir (Barbie, One Night in Miami) who as Marley captures the Rastafarian soul of the legendary frontman, who never shies away from Marley’s flaws but presents the singer’s aura as both essential and inevitable.  The humble superstar embodied by the up and coming Ben-Adir radiates a contagious form of peaceful positivity.  Ben Adir’s performance saves the uneven production, as does Reindaldo Marcus Green’s willingness to let Ben-Adir’s musical performances linger longer than what may be expected.  It is through his music that Bob Marley touched the soul of the world, and through those same songs, Green allows audiences to imbibe in Marley’s optimistic vocal nectar.  Varying the platforms on which Marley performs, Bed-Adir is equally mesmerizing before thousands of worshiping Jamaicans as he is in a quiet acoustic solo warmed by a bonfire’s glow.  It requires the dedication of a patient filmmaker, gifted actor and legendary songwriter to make individual scenes in what is an otherwise middling film, become this emotionally resonant.  Bob Marley: One Love is worth seeing for this reason alone.     

The Rastafarian lion from a tropical nation, utilized his voice to carve a path through world’s problems and deliver an undeniable truth. Although Marley‘s death cast a dark shroud over his homeland, it is impossible to believe that Marley will ever truly die, as he and his call for unity will echo in eternity.  Bob Marley: One Love is far from a perfect biopic, as the story is intentionally selective about which of its titular hero's flaws it chooses to illuminate.   This is a clear product of the film’s production team being composed of direct descendants in Marley’s bloodline, an understandable and forgivable misstep to say the least.  Those who enter One Love, looking for holes to punch, won’t have to look hard to accomplish their goal.  For those in search of a respite from the icy realities of modern political warfare, Bob Marley: One Love is to the soul what the Jamaican sun is to the skin.

Target Score: 6.5/10 - Audiences will need to overlook some narrative gaps in order to enjoy Bob Marley: One Love, a biopic that proves to be both musically and thematically rich.  Focusing on a narrow three year span of his life, Marley purists may walk away wanting more from director Reindaldo Marcus Green’s story. Kingsley Ben-Adir’s performance as the reggae legend is alone worth the price of admission.