Bob Marley: One Love – Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on February 13, 2024 in / No Comments


DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Paramount Pictures, Bob Marley: One LoveThe name alone – Bob Marley – is enough to ignite memories in your head. Most of the time, these memories bear happy feelings, because it’s the kind of music great for chilling out or having a drink with friends. (Or, if it’s legal where you are, rolling a “bob.”) Whether it’s hearing him for the first time in a college dorm room, “borrowing” your sister’s CD (sorry, Mireya), in the car with your parents, through gargantuan club speakers, while dancing with someone at a party, seeing Will Smith singing it to his dog in I Am Legend, or watching a cover band play any one of his anthemic tunes, most everyone has a Bob Marley memory of a good time or place.

And that’s the feeling director Reinaldo Marcus Green wants to impart with his biographical look at the man himself, Bob Marley: One Love. Shot with an eye to capture Marley’s presence and share the soul he put into his recordings, this film gives us a look at Marley’s tumultuous 1977, a year of upheaval that included his self-imposed exile to England and the release of his masterpiece, “Exodus.” Bearing all the tunes we’ve come to know and love as a backdrop for watching Marley move through his life, the film wants to seat us comfortably while we watch him write and produce music while still staying true to his near-ascetic principles.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Paramount Pictures, Bob Marley: One LoveKingsley Ben-Adir plays Marley with brightness, respect, and loving humor which only magnifies Marley’s own electric persona. Comparing short bursts of archive footage at the end of the film to Ben-Adir’s performance cements that the filmmakers got it right; that the film also has the tacit involvement and approval of the surviving Marley family is also a feather in its cap. Countering Ben-Adir is Lashana Lynch as Marley’s wife, longtime companion, and backup singer Rita, whose partnership with Marley comes off more as a guiding star and the voice of reason, even though Marley himself has his own plans he wants to execute.

From a near-fatal shooting in 1976 to becoming one of the world’s most sought-after artists, we’re taken through Marley’s personal and business friendships, culminating in a peace concert seeking to put an end to political violence between the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party. Green allows us to keep up with the ever-bounding Marley as he makes his music and searches for his own personal meaning, symbolized by visions of himself as a boy running away from a crop field bursting into flames. While much of the film tracks forward from 1976 through 1978, we get little drop-ins from Marley and Rita’s past from seeing Marley abandoned to finding Rita as a friend and true love.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Paramount Pictures, Bob Marley: One LoveBob Marley: One Love wants us to live in these heartfelt moments of discovery and warmth, limiting Bob and Rita’s personal strife to only one scene which also coincides with another conflict in his touring party. The placement of this scene and its execution is an example of the very broad strokes used by writers Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, and Zach Baylin to paint this quick portrait of this enigmatic figure. Even though we accept that not everything we want can fit into this film’s running time, the film itself comes off a little too neat, a little too sanitized, much in the way that Marley’s own best-of compilation “Legend” left out a lot of his politically-pointed songs in favor of putting more easily-digestible tunes in front of people who might’ve never heard him before.

But if easing us into the legends of Bob Marley and his music is the aim of the film, then it succeeds with vigor and joy. Marley’s political aims, as far as this script tells us, are peace and togetherness, unity in the face of violence. Truth be told, Bob Marley: One Love takes the route of The Greatest Showman, dispensing with the more seedy aspects of the business in favor of a good time. It’s not entirely a whitewash of Marley and his reputation, but the film goes to fair lengths to keep any perceived bad tastes out of our mouths. Were we to take it at face value, this film follows a happy-go-lucky, hard-working musician through two years of exile only to come out shining on the other side. Of course, there’s more to the story. However, as far as introductions go, Bob Marley: One Love welcomes the viewer with open arms and allows us to see into the man a little bit before encouraging us to go further on our own.

Rated PG-13 for marijuana use and smoking throughout, some violence and brief strong language. Running time: 104 minutes. Released by Paramount Pictures.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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