Bob Marley: One Love biopic is Out Now

Publish Date
Thursday, 15 February 2024, 12:20PM


Bob Marley's story is now on the big screen!

The movie celebrates "the life and music of an icon who inspired generations through his message of love and unity."

"On the big screen for the first time, discover Bob’s powerful story of overcoming adversity and the journey behind his revolutionary music."

The film focuses on the 1976 attempted assassination of Bob as he prepares to return to Jamaica for the 1978 One Love Peace Concert.

The movie was produced in partnership with the Marley family.

Watch the trailer above and read on for a review.

Review by Robbie Collin via Daily Telegraph UK.

After a number of recent films, like Mean Girls and Wonka, turned out to be secret musicals – in that their advertising campaigns did their utmost to convince you they were anything but – here is a rare reverse case: a film you might reasonably assume is a musical, but isn’t.

Bob Marley: One Love is not to be confused with One Love: Bob Marley, the recent stage show by Kwame Kwei-Armah which worked the reggae icon’s greatest hits into a retelling of his later life.

Rather it’s an entirely separate project, and one officially rubber-stamped by the Marley clan: the singer’s children Ziggy and Cedella and his widow Rita are all producers. Of course the hits all appear, but mostly in rehearsal scenes or as background music.

It covers the same series of events, though, from the 1976 attempt on Marley’s life in Jamaica to the subsequent recording of Exodus in London, the triumphant European tour and his return to Kingston for the 1978 peace concert at which he brought together the heads of his country’s two warring political factions on stage.

It’s the natural endpoint for a Bob Marley biopic – the equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody wrapping at Live Aid – though it speaks to a weakness in the script’s emotional underpinnings that a brief archival clip of the critical hand-joining moment proves far more moving than any of the dramatics beforehand.

Kingsley Ben-Adir stars as Marley, and the director is Reinaldo Marcus Green – whose King Richard, about the tennis-conquering Williams sisters’ father and coach, won Will Smith his Best Actor Oscar in 2022 shortly after he clocked Chris Rock on live TV. That was a fairly conventional biopic which hewed to the genre’s rules with no visible chafing, though his new one makes it look like Holy Motors.

What surprises most about Bob Marley: One Love is how defiantly unsurprising almost every part of it is. Even Marley neophytes will recognise each scene’s clichéd contours, from the squabbles in record label offices to the bitter domestic blow-ups that peskily go hand-in-hand with professional triumphs. (The mostly thankless role “Bob’s rock”, Rita, is played with bouldery stoicism by Lashana Lynch.)

The one big creative swing is the decision to have the cast deliver much of their dialogue in patois, which brings authenticity and warmth to the ensemble scenes – though audiences without an existing ear for the dialect will probably struggle to keep up. It’s a choice that serves Ben-Adir by far the best: the sheer musicality and verve of his line delivery rocket-boosts the unfamiliar viewer over any semantic potholes.

It’s a gorgeous performance overall – his Marley is so alive to the potential of music as both an art form and cause, it’s as if you can see the creative energy flowing up from the earth through his legs to the tips of his fingers and dreadlocks. In a richer or more rousing film, the 37-year-old’s work here might have been talked about for awards. In this one, it’s reason enough to watch.

- Robbie Collin via Daily Telegraph UK and republished here with permission.

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