Kingsley Ben-Adir stars as the reggae icon in “Bob Marley: One Love” (Photo Credit: Chiabella James/2023 Paramount Pictures).


(“Bob Marley: One Love” trailer courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Biopics of absolute legends can present a tricky predicament for filmmakers.

Does the filmmaker focus on one particular storyline in the icon’s life?

Or does the filmmaker attempt to force one’s entire life into two or three hours like Benny Boom did for the Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me?”

Filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”) and screenwriters Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers and Zach Baylin choose to focus on one storyline about how the reggae star attempted to use his music to unite a politically divided country over a short period of time rather than telling his story in totality.

And although “Bob Marley: One Love” does use flashbacks to show how his White father abandoned him and how the first iteration of the Wailers got their break from a Jamaican record company, the man behind anthems like “Redemption Song” and “I Shot the Sheriff” is definitely deserving of a three hour plus movie or even a miniseries because his life was just that impactful as evident by people still evoking his messages in modern times.

Furthermore, “Bob Marley: One Love” might be the perfect biopic for fans already familiar with his life story.

But if moviegoers watch a more in-depth documentary or television special about Marley’s life and career before watching “Bob Marley: One Life,” they might agree that the movie only lightly touches on some of the more interesting aspects of his life.

Although filmmakers mention that Marley’s mother moved to Delaware, leaving him behind in Jamaica initially, it does not show how the future reggae king moved to the United States eventually.

While living in America, he became inspired by the Civil Rights Movement.

Coupled with the poor conditions of the people from his hometown Trench Town, Jamaica and the British colonial rule that left Black people in Jamaica with no political or economic power and those conditions really inspired the message in his music.

Additionally, his embrace of Rastafarianism, a form of Christianity that believed that the African king Rastafari represented the second coming of Christ made his message something that represented Black Jamaican culture and plight perfectly but was also universally accepted by freedom loving people from across the globe.

“Bob Marley: One Love” takes place during upheaval, and a potential civil war in Jamaica.

Political parties and candidates are at war with one another.

Moreover, street gangs are at war with each other.

While Bob (Kingsley Ben-Adir, “One Night in Miami”) has no desire to take political sides, he does believe that the message in his music can soothe the savage beasts hellbent on causing more confusion in his beloved homeland.

Unfortunately for true leaders, their message could present a challenge to the status quo and the powers that be.

As a result, a true visionary and life-changer like Bob could become dangerous to those that benefit from their current social order.

And when dangerous people see a person as a danger, very little good can come of that scenario.

In “Bob Marley: One Love,” the singer/activist finds himself, his family and his friends in danger because of his message of peace and unity.

But what does he do?

Does he quiet down and flee his homeland to stay safe?

Or does he confront the danger head on, realizing that his message comes from God and therefore he is protected by God?

The decision that he makes will go a long way in determining the future of Jamaica.

Will it fall into further chaos?

Or does it finally personify the meaning behind the term one love?

Like “All Eyez on Me,” many people will not criticize the performances in “Bob Marley: One Love.”

Ben-Adir humanizes the icon in a way that concert performances and archival interview footage cannot.

The movie shows a family man that loves God and his people so much that he does what he does not to get rich and famous, but to make his message of love, peace and unity more famous in a world dominated by violence and turbulence.

Additionally, Lashana Lynch’s (“The Woman King”) performance as Bob’s wife Rita Marley will resonate with many men and women because often a successful person is so successful because they have a significant other willing to play the background so that their spouse can fulfill their God-given purpose.

More importantly, Lynch and Ben-Adir got the Jamaican accent correct.

Hollywood has a habit of butchering accents like those from Texas, people from Louisiana and Africa (Will Smith in “Concussion”).

So, give Hollywood its props when they get the accent correct.

While “Bob Marley: One Love” does not do Marley’s life story justice because of the short run time, the musician’s catalog of arguably the greatest reggae songs of all time is undeniable.

Like other music biopics like “Get on Up” and “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” moviegoers will bop and sway in their seats as they jam out to hit after hit after hit.

And the music is what people will remember from the movie because of its message and its musicianship.

Genius is genius.

And despite the limitations of “Bob Marley: One Love,” nothing can diminish his ingenuity.

Although biopics can become tricky, it is criminal that some legends do not have proper biopics.

Marley has long deserved a biopic and it is just commendable that someone finally stepped up to the plate to tell his story on the big screen.







Todd A. Smith
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