Bob Marley movie: Immersive, inspiring, underwhelming

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Bob Marley: One Love is a 2024 biographical musical drama film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. PHOTO | POOL

Iconic, influential, legendary – these are just a few ways to describe Robert Nesta Marley, or simply Bob Marley- a Jamaican musician whose impact on the music scene from the 70s to the early 80s, transformed the once-niche genre of reggae somewhere in the Caribean into a household name.

It's evident that an individual of such stature deserves nothing but the best, particularly when it comes to recounting his story on the grand stage - cinema. With that said let's look at Bob Marley: One Love.

With a whopping budget of $70 million (Sh10bn), Bob Marley: One Love is a 2024 biographical musical drama film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, the director behind King Richard, the film that secured Will Smith the infamous Oscar. Green co-wrote the screenplay with Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers and Zach Baylin, based on a story by Winter and Flowers.

The stellar cast includes Kingsley Ben-Adir, known for his roles in One Night in Miami, Peaky Blinders, Barbie and Secret Invasion, portraying Marley, alongside Lashana Lynch, known for The Woman King, No Time to Die and Captain Marvel, as Rita Marley and James Norton, recognised for his work in Little Women, A Little of Life and Happy Valley, as Chris Blackwell.

It’s also impossible to ignore particular teams of the production – the costume designers, set designers, sound team, dialect coaches and cinematographers – who, alongside the director, are the true MVPs of the film. While everyone involved excelled both in front of and behind the camera, these individuals truly stand out for their exceptional contributions.


Bob Marley: One Love tells the story of how reggae icon Bob Marley triumphed over adversity and the transformative journey behind his revolutionary music.

Not your typical review

We're steering away from the conventional format of dissecting the good, the bad and wrapping up with a conclusion. Why? Well, this movie might just be the most polarising one of the year. While it's crafted to appeal to a broad audience, its success or failure hinges on individual perspectives, much like a piece of art the movie is subjective. So, let's dive in.

Reggae fans

For reggae aficionados and rastafarians, this film is a treat. The director captures the essence of the music and intricately weaves in the creative process behind it. Centered around two pivotal concerts and the development of an iconic album, it's a journey worth experiencing, especially in theaters with good sound systems.

The immersive atmosphere, complemented by stellar music, era-appropriate costume and set design, and breathtaking cinematography, transports viewers to that era.

Kingsley Ben-Adir's portrayal of Bob Marley, though visually close to the legend, may look strange at first. However, as the movie progresses, his embodiment of Marley's mannerisms and stage presence becomes increasingly convincing. Lashana Lynch's captivating performance as Rita Marley adds depth to the narrative, solidifying her as one of the film's highlights. Look, I can't speak to the authenticity of the Jamaican patois, it felt natural listening to it as an outsider and is likely to work well with general audiences.

Jamaica for Rastafarians and reggae enthusiasts is a “Mecca” the heartland of “the culture.” Conversely, for the average person, Jamaica is often viewed as a tropical tourist destination. What sets this film apart is its portrayal of Jamaica in a more grounded, realistic light, aligning with the socio-political landscape of the 70s. It offers a glimpse into a Jamaica not often seen in mainstream cinema, providing a perspective that enriches the overall experience. I

Non-reggae fans or cinephiles

If reggae is not your thing, never heard of Bob Marley you are a cinephile just looking for a movie to enjoy, you may find this film lacking in certain aspects. It falls short in portraying the full scope of Bob Marley's influence and complexity. Essentially, if you're unfamiliar with Bob Marley, the film primarily focuses on his music without delving into what made him truly legendary. It merely scratches the surface of his greatness, especially when compared to the 2012 documentary “Marley”. The writing lacks depth, and given the calibre of the lead actors, a focus on Marley's earlier years, a period less known to the general public would have been a better direction.

My thoughts?

Well, there are two main things to consider.

First, Bob Marley: One Love takes a Hollywood approach to portraying the iconic musician. Many biopics tend to have longer runtimes, such as Bohemian Rhapsody and Whitney Houston: Wanna Dance with Somebody. However, One Love clocks in at a shorter runtime of 1 hour and 47 minutes, possibly for increased theatre screening and which means more money for the studio. This raises questions about how such a condensed portrayal can do justice to Marley's monumental legacy.

Additionally, given the recent surge in music biopics, it's reasonable to wonder if this film is merely capitalising on a trend rather than offering a truly comprehensive celebration of Marley's life.

Secondly, the involvement of Marley's family as executive producers lends authenticity to the production. However, this also raises concerns about the potential sanitisation of Marley's story, favouring a more positive narrative while downplaying any negative aspects. This approach, evident in the film, may leave viewers feeling that certain aspects of Marley's life are glossed over to preserve his image.

So who is this for?

Music lovers, people who appreciate the culture, and you, if you have even just one Bob Marley song in your playlist. Watching it in a theatre is recommended for the immersive sound and cinematography. Despite its flaws, the director manages to capture an atmospheric celebration of Bob Marley that even with its pitfalls can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their familiarity with the musician's story.

X: @stanslausmanthi

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