Bob Marley: One Love: An Underwhelming Biopic That Barely Scratches The Surface

Bob Marley: One Love - Official Trailer (2024 Movie)
Bob Marley: One Love - Official Trailer (2024 Movie) / Paramount Pictures

Music biopics are challenging to make. On the one hand, it’s important to capture the musical career of the subject while concisely portraying aspects of their life in a feature film. The result is often the inability to balance the two and present a thorough, satisfying, real-life story on the big screen.

To combat this, Reinaldo Marcus Green's Bob Marley: One Love focuses on a specific period of the late singer’s life. This includes the making of the reggae legend's studio album, Exodus, which was released in 1977, and his hopes for peace amidst political chaos in his home country.

At the time, Jamaica was facing a substantial increase in violence among its people because of two opposing political parties. Hoping to unify the country, the Smile Jamaica reggae concert was held in 1976, though days before the show, Marley, along with his wife Rita and a few of the singer’s associates, were shot in an assassination attempt.

Thankfully, Marley made a full recovery and could perform at the planned event. Up until this point in the film, Bob Marley: One Love adequately reflects the singer’s desire for unity, and the mayhem surrounding the political chaos that took place in Jamaica is engrossing. However, once the feature pivots toward the making of the Exodus album overseas, it loses direction.

It must be noted that the film’s shortcomings have nothing to do with the performances, and each actor involved in the project gives their all. Kingsley Ben-Adir is sensational as Marley, and the film couldn’t have made a better casting decision. Not only does he look the part, but his Jamaican accent is on point, and he fully immerses himself in the role and Marley’s mannerisms.

Similarly, Lashana Lynch shines as Rita Marley and is one of the most intriguing parts of the film. Their scenes alongside one another are captivating, but there aren’t enough of them. Instead, viewers are given glimpses of their marriage but are left wanting more.

This is also the case with other aspects of Marley’s life that are glossed over and don’t build the depth needed to draw viewers in and allow them to form an emotional connection with the material. When the film begins, Marley is already a married star with kids in tow.

Throughout the film, we are given little insight into his upbringing, his family life up until this point in the narrative, and the singer's rise to fame. For die-hard fans who are already knowledgeable about his life, this may not pose an issue. However, audience members (such as myself) who hope to have an in-depth overview of Marley are going to leave the theater disappointed.

A significant amount of the film is dedicated to musical numbers and the creative process behind the Exodus album. This is an excessive amount of time that leaves little room for a deep narrative exploration of Marley's life.

Don’t get me wrong, the album is a huge part of the singer’s career that deserves recognition, and the recreation of live performances and studio sessions is impressive and realistic, but the time spent during this period drags. In fact, Bob Marley: One Love feels more like a concert film than a thorough characterization of its subject, which is a great shame.

All in all, Bob Marley: One Love is equipped with great performances and delivers on the musical front, yet the narrative of the late singer's life remains surface-level. The result is a music biopic that fails to deliver a satisfying overview of the man behind the music and give the late influential reggae legend the thorough biopic that he deserves.

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