Biography Bob Marley: One Love

Review: ‘Bob Marley: One Love’ Charts the Life and Inspiring Legacy of One of Music’s Most Gifted Voices

February 8, 2024Ben MK

Recognized as one of music's most gifted voices, Bob Marley was an individual of rare talent. Named Time Magazine's album of the 20th century, Marley's ninth studio album, Exodus, continues to inspire people the world over nearly five decades after its release. However, the legendary reggae singer was more than just a chart-topping recording artist, he was also steadfast in his mission to united the divided population of his home country, Jamaica, through his songs. It's a legacy that lives on, even to this day. And with Bob Marley: One Love, director Reinaldo Marcus Green is bringing that legacy to the big screen, in this biopic focusing on two of the most important and turbulent years in Marley's life.

Set between 1976 and 1978, the film finds Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) at a crossroads. Intent on performing a never-before-attempted benefit concert to help heal the division caused by Jamaica's clashing political parties and rival gangs — a conflict that has left the nation reeling from an outbreak of senseless violence — the then-31-year-old musician remains defiant, even in the face of threats to the lives of he, his wife, Rita (Lashana Lynch), and their six children. However, when an assassination attempt leaves Rita suffering a near-fatal gunshot wound, an understandably shaken Marley is left questioning his decision to stand his ground. Sending Rita and the kids off to his mother's home in Delaware, Marley himself makes his way to London, where he and his band, the Wailers, set out to record a new album unlike anything they've done before. But when he's urgently called back to Jamaica to once again help bridge the divide between its peoples, will he heed the request?

What follows is both a sonic journey through highlights from the iconic artist's vast catalog of music and an engaging look at what made Marley tick, as Green takes audiences on a behind-the-scenes tour of the reggae star's creative process, as well as his personal life. From the creation of the songs that would ultimately become the tracklist for Exodus to flashbacks that provide fleeting glimpses into the not-so-idyllic family life of a pre-adolescent Marley and how his teenage self met and fell in love with Rita, Bob Marley: One Love is a treasure trove for the singer's fans. What will make the biggest impression on viewers, though, is Ben-Adir's charismatic performance as the titular character, a man who always put the needs of others ahead of his own.

Up until now, Ben-Adir's most notable roles have been as one of the many Kens in Greta Gerwig's Barbie and as the ruthless leader of a group of shapeshifting aliens in Marvel's Secret Invasion. Here, on the other hand, the 37-year-old British actor effortlessly disappears into the lead role, boasting a convincing Jamaican accent and mannerisms that will have moviegoers believing that he is Bob Marley. It's a chameleon-like part that’s only matched by Lynch, who provides the emotional kindling that keeps Marley's fire burning. Together, the pair don't just prove integral to the movie — they make it one of the most mesmerizing music biopics in recent memory.

Suffice to say, there's a lot to admire about Bob Marley: One Love. Still, what sets the result apart from other music biopics isn't the story or the performances, but Marley himself. Truly a once-in-a-generation talent whose works transcended both sociopolitical and geographical borders, his was a life devoted to creating a better world and inspiring others to action. And while the film may not deliver any genuine revelations about the legendary artist, it's that purposefulness that will stay with viewers even after the credits have rolled.

Bob Marley: One Love releases February 14th, 2024 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for marijuana use and smoking throughout, some violence and brief strong language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 44 min.

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