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Review: Celebrate Black History Month with ‘Bob Marley: One Love’

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What is there to say about someone as prolific as Bob Marley? Sure, he was a Jamaican reggae artist who revolutionized the music industry, with songs like “One Love”, “I Shot the Sheriff” and “No Woman, No Cry’”. He pioneered his genre of music, taking the sounds of his beloved island and people and bringing them to a wider world. His songs were iconic, and so was he for that matter, but the new film Bob Marley: One Love, looks deeper at the artist, as he approaches the precipice of a world-changing moment and the final years of his life. The film peels back the layers of a multi-dimensional man, whose family tapestry is as rich as the music he played.

Bob Marley: One Love is brought to life by director Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men, King Richard), who shared in writing the screenplay with Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), Frank E. Flower (Metro Manila), and Zach Baylin (King Richard, Creed III, Gran Turismo). With some members of the Marley family, such as Ziggy and Rita, serving as producers, One Love is executed with significant love and care, with everyone involved wanting to get this important story told right. While the film features a large and impressive cast, it’s Kingsley Ben-Adir and Lashana Lynch who portray the iconic star and his wife, who are truly the backbone of this film.

Bob Marley: One Love arrives just in time to celebrate Black History Month, as this story and this film should be essential viewing for all.

[Warning: spoilers from Bob Marley: One Love are discussed below!]

Bob Marley biopic gets up close and personal with a music legend

As a young adult, Bob Marley (Quan-Dajai Henriques) was truly alone. Left behind in Jamaica by his mother, and shunned by his father, there was no one to help him carry on. But can anyone be truly alone if they have the strength and power of music behind them? The soul that man contained at such a young age was bursting to arrive in the world, but before he could, Bob needed to find something even more important. His wife, Rita (Nia Ashi).

With a story told out of order, beginning with the couple more adult than young and closer to Bob’s death, we learn of the struggles and triumphs. Bob Marley: One Love aims to focus on those final years of the singer’s career, especially as he attempts to bridge the divide between the political parties feuding. The connective narrative from one scene to another is the bond that Bob (Ben-Adir) and Rita (Lynch) share.

Their relationship hasn’t been easy, as Bob Marley is not always an easy guy to be around. He’s an exceptional person who wishes to spread the message of peace and love throughout the world, but doing so puts strain on his family. As One Love presents it, imminent threats of danger are around every corner, which puts his wife and children in the line of fire more than once.

Bob Marley: one Love
Bob (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Rita (Lashana Lynch). Bob Marley: One Love (Paramount)

And yet, regardless of the challenges from the external world or from within their relationship, Rita stays by his side. Is it out of love or duty? At times, it seems to fluctuate from one end of the spectrum to the other, but steady they remained until the day he died.

Throughout Bob Marley: One Love, Bob is on a mission, which is to bring peace throughout the world, specifically to Jamaica. The island is riddled with problems, both political and otherwise. However, he never sees this come to fruition before he is taken by a rare form of cancer.

The story of his health begins early in the film, although it doesn’t take form truly until the back half of the film. This adds gravitas to the film, with doom weighing overhead on each step of Marley’s journey across the world, preaching about love and peace. Those who are familiar with Bob Marley’s story know how it ends, however as this film shows, he can end it on his terms, which is all any of us can ask for.

The positives and negatives of Bob Marley: One Love

There are many things to love about this film, so I decided to start with the negative and end on a high note. Bob Marley: One Love is a long movie that doesn’t quite know how it wants to share its narrative. It feels like a 2-hour stroll through the woods, where the goal is just to observe, lacking a purpose. The film meanders through Bob Marley’s life, showing intimate glimpses of it. This is incredible to see, but at times it feels like the film just sits there, struggling to move the story forward.

Paired with the sometimes hard-to-understand dialogue specifically from Ben-Adir’s take on Marley, the first half an hour or so minutes are difficult to get through. I found myself checking my watch frequently, which isn’t always a good sign. It could have just been me, but I definitely could have benefitted from some subtitles, and I look forward to a rewatch when it gets released digitally. That being said, once you become inoculated with the patterns of speech and get past the initial awkward story structure, Bob Marley: One Love the film truly comes alive on screen.

Marley’s life is fascinating to watch unfold, as each scene is meticulously placed and measured by all those who cared deeply about this man. The film doesn’t attempt to paint a one-sided picture of the musician, but instead showcases both the good and the bad. Because of this, a duality arises that makes the film feel more believable than some biopics I’ve seen. There’s a rawness that comes with One Love, because of the intimacy that is brewed into each scene. As the audience, you almost feel like you’re spying on conversations and moments you shouldn’t see, that’s how close they take you in this film.

An exceptional performance by Lashana Lynch as Rita Marley

While every actor is great in this film, it’s Lashana Lynch who excels above everyone else. Her portrayal of Rita Marley is Oscar-worthy, serving as the emotional crutch of this film. Lashana Lynch helps make One Love extraordinary.

She makes this film what it is, propelling others to a different level of craft. You feel for Rita and the plight she grows through trying to be the best wife, mother, and partner. I will say it now, if Lashana Lynch isn’t up for every award possible next year, we’ve messed up royally.

Final thoughts on Bob Marley: One Love

This film definitely takes some time and energy to get into, but once the stage is set and the players are established, Bob Marley: One Love is something exceptional to behold. It’s a close-up snapshot of a larger-than-life person, whose music and spirituality changed a generation. The film could benefit from a bit of tightening for its run time and script, but overall, it’s an excellent piece of cinema, that all people should watch to understand more about our world and the message Marley preached.

Bob Marley: One Love is in theaters on Valentine’s Day . Do you plan on seeing this movie in theaters soon? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 366 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson