Bob Marley: One Love is the latest biopic to showcase the man behind the music. Starring Kingsley Ben-Adir as renowned reggae pioneer Bob Marley, we’re thrown into an era of violence, political instability, threats of civil war and intense policing during the late 1970s. These are themes that still ring true across the world today. The movie explores a Jamaica plagued by stereotypes that Rastafarians with locs are criminal, making them unfairly subject to an even more intense form of policing.
The political climate at the time becomes an interesting plot point when the same hairstyle criminalised by the state became the very thing that saved Marley’s wife, Rita Marley, played by Lashana Lynch. Rita’s locs saved her from a gunshot to her head during an assassination attempt on Bob Marley which the film intensely captures. We later see the Reggae legend attempt to try and unite his people by throwing a free concert to preach the message of love. Still, due to pressure, he flees the capital Kingston after the concert to find political refuge in London where he created his album Exodus.
The undoubted main attraction of the show is Marley and his timeless discography preaching love and social consciousness. King Richard director Reinaldo Marcus Green resists the typical, unwieldy cradle-to-grave biopic narrative approach, but still falls short of breathing much life into this underwhelming drama. Ben-Adir and Lynch’s performances are likeable with modest allure yet the film fails to deliver on its profound potential.
Bob Marley: One Love has a relatively short runtime for such an in-depth story. It tries to cover Marley’s making of the album Exodus, his eroding relationship with Rita at the time due to his infidelity, and the adverse effects of his escalating notoriety. However, the film skims over these aspects of his life instead of delving into them, leaving the audience wanting for more.
Despite the biopic’s intention to highlight the multi-dimensional aspect of Bob Marley’s art, it relies on narrative shortcuts and lacks the probing curiosity that fans of Marley will be looking for. Instead of elucidating, the film ends up lionising the artist, failing to truly showcase how his art was forged in pain and how it brought inspiration and respite to so many listeners.
Bob Marley: One Love will release in cinemas from 14 February 2024.
photography. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
words. Emmanuel Onapa