Bob Marley: One Love

A functional look at a legend

Bob Marley was an undisputed giant, not just in the world of reggae music, but for his influence in other genres and, not least, his political pull. His life has been well covered in numerous documentaries, and now director Reinaldo Marcus Green, who made King Richard and Monsters and Men, has decided a dramatization would be a good idea.

Now, any movie about this superstar is going to be worth watching, and your friends who have seen it are likely to even gush. So while I think you should see it, be aware that it is far from perfect. 

First there’s the immense challenge of portraying the man’s – what? – Purity? Essence? Kingsley Ben-Adir, in the lead role, is certainly committed, and obviously a talented actor. But I think the most that even the best actor can hope for in this regard is a creditable impersonation, and that’s what we get from Kingsley. Another problem, rather crudely put, is that he’s too good-looking. Quibbles, sure, but they add up.

The most bothersome aspect of the film is its lack of a decent story arc. In his quest to include everything in Marley’s life – romantic, musical, political – Green favors a scattershot “and then this happened’ structure, and the film’s rhythm suffers.

In short, this is a movie that will be best appreciated by those who already know a great deal about the man. Others are urged to at least look over a Wikipedia bio or some such before going in. Or watch Kevin Macdonald’s 2012 Marley. It’ll make a difference.

There’s a beautiful moment late in the movie when Bob plays what is many people’s (me included) favorite Marley tune: “Redemption Song.” Someone asks, “When did you write that?” 

His perfect reply: “All my life.” (107 min)