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Film Review: BOB MARLEY: ONE LOVE (2024): Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Biopic is Interesting but Feels Curiously Incomplete

Kingsley Ben Adir Bob Marley One Love

Bob Marley: One Love Review

Bob Marley: One Love (2024) Film Review, a movie directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, written by Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers and Zach Baylin and starring Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton, Tosin Cole, Umi Myers, Anthony Welsh, Nia Ashi, Aston Barrett Jr., Anna-Share Blake, Gawaine ‘J-Summa’ Campbell, Naomi Cowan, Alexx A-Game, Michael Gandolfini, Quan-Dajai Henriques, Hector Donald Lewis, Nadine Marshall and Sheldon Shepherd.

Bob Marley must have been an amazingly complex person. He was talented beyond belief and left behind a legacy of songs that will probably prove to be timeless. In director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s disappointing Marley biopic, however, something is definitely missing. In the movie, Marley is certainly impulsive and determined but, as played by Kingsley Ben-Adir, Marley lacks the charisma that was so evident in the real-life footage the movie displays at the picture’s conclusion. When a film shows the real famous person the picture is based on at the end, one of two things will happen. Either you’ll nod in amazement as to how well the actor got the role right or you’ll shrug your shoulders and say, “better luck, next time.” Bob Marley: One Love is a case of the latter scenario.

That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have some powerful scenes. As Bob Marley’s wife, Rita, Lashana Lynch’s performance says a lot in regards to what the movie doesn’t spell out about Bob. There’s a scene where the couple are immersed in an argument and Rita lays out the cards on the table and spells out the situation for what it really is. While one of Bob’s popular songs says, “Every little thing is going to be alright,” things in Bob’s real life were certainly not alright. In Green’s movie, Bob is so immersed in his own personal situation that everything he was fighting so hard for is simply glossed over. This is the Wikipedia summary of Marley’s life rather than a fully fleshed out analysis of the man himself.

As Marley’s manager, Don Taylor, Anthony Welsh gives a performance that is only sometimes on the mark in a role that seems like it was mostly left on the cutting room floor. The interaction between Don and Bob makes for some dramatic substance within the context of the picture but the movie fails to vividly portray the authenticity of their partnership in a fascinating way. The movie plays flatly on the screen hoping that the events it shows will form a coherent whole. If not for the power of Bob Marley’s music, the movie wouldn’t have many redeeming qualities.

Bob Marley’s story is a powerful one. Bob’s dad abandoned him early on and Bob’s life was always threatened as he moved from one major project to the next. If anybody should inspire audience sympathy, it’s him. Instead, the movie relies on Lynch’s fine turn to flesh out the context of the relationship between Bob and Rita and the true meaning of Bob’s career as well as what drove him to act in the way which he does.

The gangsters in this movie are stereotypical in terms of the way they dress and act. Thugs are periodically placed into the story line as evidence that Marley’s life was in serious jeopardy. Poor Bob gets shot at one point when he could have ducked and, ultimately, Bob confronts the unfortunate tragedy of cancer. This is all conveyed in a by-the-numbers way that only works when a powerful Bob Marley song is playing in the background to give life to the scenes which play straightforwardly like a television movie of the week. I know they don’t have those anymore but the time period/setting of the film (1976-1978) helps beg the comparison.

The most realistic scenes here focus on Exodus, one of Bob’s most successful projects. An executive realistically (albeit poorly) judges the potential cover of the album and the actual creation of the whole album itself is quite interesting. As it turns out, the Wailers, Bob’s peeps, saw a movie which helped inspire the title of the legendary record.

On the other hand, the flashback scenes and sequences of Bob having visions as he performs on stage feel curiously general and somewhat incomplete. Lashana Lynch and Ben-Adir have their best on-screen moments fighting. Wouldn’t the movie benefit from more positive passions between these two characters? James Norton is also sadly wasted as a key player in the action, Chris Blackwell. Norton seems to have come from another movie altogether and his scenes feel too general and lack creative depth.

That being said, Bob Marley: One Love is the type of biopic that could pique an audience’s curiosity. I wouldn’t mind getting an extended version of this film if it comes out on DVD. There certainly must have been more to this script. Clocking in at about 100 minutes (before all the credit minutes are tabulated), I feel there’s a half hour of footage that shows more about Bob Marley, the man, himself. I wanted to see his pains his passions, his joys and his artistry. Instead, I feel I got to see his anger more than anything else while watching this film. If I get to see deleted scenes or an extended cut, I may revise this review but as it stands, this is a biopic that is missing more than it should in order to be a successful effort. The music is easily its best quality but you don’t have to go to the movies to listen to it.

Rating: 5.5/10

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