A&E Review

“Bob Marley: One Love” Puts the King of Reggae in the Spotlight After a Life of Selflessness

Life is worth living, and people in history who remind us of this are worth celebrating. Bob Marley was not only the father of reggae music, but a father to a far more impactful movement: peace and life.

The artist known for his positive songs and dangly dreadlocks that danced with him on stage shook up the 1970s. His music is still the standard in reggae, and his “One Love” movement feels all the more relevant in a world riddled with hurt.

“Bob Marley: One Love” is the Paramount Pictures produced film that tells the story of the man who turned his music into more than just something to dance to — but something to fight for.

Marley is brilliantly played by Kingsley Ben-Adir, who took stepping into a role to a whole new level. From scenes in the studio singing to moments meant to depict Marley’s wild antics on stage, Ben-Adir became a photocopied version of Marley. His voice is scary similar and his body movements mimic the late reggae activist’s to near perfection.

Ben-Adir’s supporting cast deserves their flowers as well. Lashana Lynch plays Marley’s wife Rita and Tosin Cole plays Marley’s keyboardist, Tyrone Downie. The reggae songs we’ve come to know and love weren’t just Marley’s creations, but often performed by Bob Marley & The Wailers. Lynch and Cole play pivotal characters in the story as Marley’s bandmates, and without their unique voices matching those of Rita and Tyrone, the movie would have lost that magic.

“Bob Marley: One Love” is only an hour and 47 minutes long, and when covering a life as fast-moving and memorable as Marley’s, less than two hours of screen time isn’t going to cut it. I could feel this sense of urgency as a viewer of the movie, and was disappointed when some scenes in the movie I had waited for felt dismissed. 

I was hoping to be provided with a front-row seat into what went into the production of Marley’s best songs. Other than a snippet of when Bob Marley & The Wailers were discovered by a Jamaican-owned record, the only other scene in the studio came when Marley and crew came up with the hit track “Jamming.” 

As someone with a great appreciation for what it takes to make a song, I felt that this scene was brief and could have also been included for more tracks like “Three Little Birds” and “Could You Be Loved.” However, I wasn’t too concerned about the lack of music making in the movie as the producers wanted there to be an understanding that Marley and his pose were more than just some singers from Jamaica.

What I did appreciate about this film was how they didn’t shy away from the hardships that came from Marley’s fame and the outside distractions. Every movie needs a conflict, but they easily could have gone the easy route and dramatized something at one of his shows. Marley had real struggles in a life remembered for peace and success, such as marital issues stemming from newfound fame, a toe injury that potentially led to the cancer that spread to that area of his body and the obvious political unrest going on in Jamaica during the ‘70s that had Marley literally dodging bullets while doing his everyday life in his hometown of Nine Mile, Jamaica. 

In a small time frame, “Bob Marley: One Love” covers almost everything deemed meaningful in Marley’s 36 years of life. And I assume that the directors and producers trust that the viewer knows enough about Marley already that certain things can be left out.

What’s most beautiful about a film like this is the ability to go into it with no expectations and complete admiration. This wasn’t a movie I was watching with plans to heavily critique, but with a curiosity to see what I’d learn about the life of the king of reggae through a film produced by several people he would consider friends and family.

I was fine not being able to understand all the Jamaican slang tossed around by Ben-Adir and his fellow actors, or not getting an inside peek into Marley’s life as a father when the movie intentionally focused on Marley the activist and musician. But that’s your fair warning before seeing this movie: some words and lines will be nearly unintelligible and despite having 12 kids, we learn next to nothing about that or his journey through fatherhood.

This is a story about music single-handedly solving a civil war, and the voice behind it all. A story about humility, nonconformity and love. And for all you music buffs like me, a story about really good music. Expect to hear plenty of Bob Marley tracks throughout, and if you’re anything like me you’ve been enjoying the covers the “Bob Marley: One Love” team released in the wake of the movie from the likes of Leon Bridges, Daniel Caesar and Kacey Musgraves.