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Bob Marley: One Love (2024) | Review

'Music and Message Are the Same Thing'

By Scott Crowden

Rating: 3/5

One Love painting by Jim Vision. Image: Loco Steve on flickr. License: CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Running on the success of Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Luhrmann’s Elvis comes yet another enticing biopic following another one of music’s all-time greats - this time it’s Rastafarian reggae icon and figurehead ambassador of peace, Bob Marley. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, this film sees Kingsley Ben-Adir go from just another Ken as he was in Barbie to one of the most influential and identifiable figures in music’s history. Except, apart from the dreadlocks, he doesn’t really look like Bob Marley at all.

But did the biopic succeed in what it wanted to do? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer.

Even after watching the film, it’s hard to decipher what the point even was. For those who are unfamiliar with Marley's career and music then this film is a good starting point to explore some of his work, specifically his award-winning album ‘Exodus’. It gives a good (and mostly accurate) detailing of his life and his struggles in Jamaica at a time of political conflict.

It also gives a little bit of spotlight to those who supported Marley – namely his supporting band, The Wailers; his producer, Chris Blackwell (played by James Norton); and his wife, Rita (played by Lashana Lynch). The performances that the cast put on were overall pretty good, but not particularly memorable.

Most of the film takes place in London, whereas Marley’s time in Jamaica is only shown during the first half hour of the movie. I do think that it was a missed opportunity to not delve further into how he got into making music and how he rose to fame in Jamaica.

Instead, the film jumps around a lot, going from one point to the next, almost as if the director had a checklist of events in Marley’s life to cover without going into much depth. This leads to the movie arduously shifting between scenes without any clear narrative binding them together.

I think this puts the movie’s biggest issue into frame: it prides itself on showing us how Marley and his music pushed for peace across the globe, and yet the film feels so disjointed that the message becomes lost. Before the credits roll, real-life footage of Marley’s peace concert in Jamaica is shown, including the iconic moment where he united opposing political leaders on stage, having them shake hands.

Even though I’d seen the clip before, this ten-second footage had a longer-lasting effect on me as I left the cinema than anything in the actual film.

Don’t get me wrong – the movie isn’t bad. It has some good moments and it accurately recreates some of the moments in Marley’s career with theatrical pzazz. But it lacks sustenance.

Marley’s music is all about the message. This is mentioned in the film, but the movie fails to get that idea across in a powerful way. Fans of Marley will enjoy his biopic, but to the casual viewer, it fails to impart what made Marley and his music truly special.


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