‘Bob Marley: One Love’ Review: A Film That Does NO Justice To The Legend


Anticipation was in the air for movie-goers and fans of the legendary Bob Marley, as they eagerly awaited the biographical film “Bob Marley: One Love.” The film, starring Kingsley Ben-Adir as the iconic musician, aimed to capture the essence of a man whose voice became synonymous with peace, love, and resistance. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, previously acclaimed for “King Richard,” the film opened with a promise to deliver an evocative portrayal of the cultural icon. Yet, with a rating of a mere 1.5 out of 5, it seems “Bob Marley: One Love” has left audiences underwhelmed and longing for the soulful spirit of Marley that was unfortunately not translated to the screen.

The film takes us back to the year 1976, a time when Kingston, Jamaica was a hotbed of political strife. Bob Marley, with his signature dreadlocks and unwavering determination, is depicted as focused on organizing a peace concert to soothe the tensions ravaging his homeland. But calamity strikes before the event can take place. Marley’s wife, Rita, portrayed by Lashana Lynch, is wounded in a shooting incident at their home, which also serves as an assassination attempt on Marley. This traumatic event serves as a turning point, signaling the need for Marley to leave Jamaica behind.

In the wake of this upheaval, Marley and his band, the Wailers, venture to London. Their quest: to discover a sound capable of healing the world. As the film unfolds, it offers fleeting glimpses into Marley’s past: scenes of a young boy racing through a field, pursued by the imposing figure of a man on horseback—possibly his estranged white father—paint an image of his troubled beginnings. His embrace of the Rastafari movement brings with it a profound sense of identity and mission. The film then transports us to the creation of “Exodus,” the groundbreaking album that captured Marley’s vision of a world without boundaries, where freedom belongs to all.

Yet, despite the rich and textured history behind Marley’s life and legacy, the film falls short of providing a comprehensive exploration of the man who has confounded and inspired millions. More than four decades after his untimely death at age 36, Marley’s influence remains ubiquitous, from worn vinyl records to T-shirts emblazoned with his image worn by new generations. However, the film skims over these enduring connections, leaving the audience with a fragmented portrayal devoid of depth and context.

The shortcomings of the biopic are further magnified by the peripheral treatment of other characters. Their development is stunted, and their presence feels cursory. Kingsley Ben-Adir delivers a moving performance as Marley, yet the constricting screenplay stifles his potential, reducing what could have been a role of a lifetime to a truncated homage.

The audience’s yearning for a film imbued with the same passion that Marley instilled in his music is met with disillusionment. Instead of a stirring and authentic tribute to the reggae legend, “Bob Marley: One Love” comes across as an anemic and disjointed account of an extraordinary life. With the raw footage of Marley’s performances just a click away on YouTube, the film’s inability to resonate begs the question: What was the true intention behind this portrayal?

In the end, “Bob Marley: One Love” serves as a poignant reminder of the difficulty in capturing the essence of a transformative figure like Bob Marley on film. It is a stark lesson that sometimes, the spirit of a legend is better experienced through the timeless legacy they left behind in their art, rather than through a flawed cinematic interpretation.

For those seeking to remember or discover Bob Marley not just as a musician but as a force for change, it seems that this biopic is, regrettably, not the tribute he so rightly deserves. “No Music, No Cry” might be a fitting adage for those who walk out of the theater, still searching for the soul of the music legend that failed to materialize in this ill-conceived cinematic endeavor.

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