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  • Writer's pictureJamie

Bob Marley: One Love - Review

They are really churning out these musical biopics. Bob Marley: One Love is just another one added to the list. This film does sprinkle in a bit more life and personality than some of the others that play like a Wikipedia page being read. This film jumps around in time during moments in order to fit the self contained story of Bob’s rise to international acclaim and his focus on peace and unity in Jamaica. Although not everything worked for me in this film, the performances and general look made it an enjoyable watch. Some of the technical elements let it down on top of a slightly messy retelling of this storyline. 

We open as Bob Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) builds up to perform his first One Love concert to fight for peace in Jamaica. This is set up after we see gunmen rush the home of Marley and open fire on those around him. 

Moments like these, and a few others throughout feel like huge moments in his life, and get pretty swept under the rug, almost shrugged off so there is room for Bob to perform another song. 

This film is not letting one moment go by without one of his songs playing in the soundtrack or being sung in the film by Kingsley. I think this would be appreciated by a lot of fans going to see this film, having their favourite songs played up on the big screen. However, for anyone who is more of a casual fan, I think it can feel like fan service in sacrifice of the story. 

Through the rest of the film, we watch Bob on tour, as he makes his Exodus record in London and get background insights into the dynamic he has with people in his life. I feel that these insights are what make the film, they bring so much more life and depth to the characters, especially Rita Marley (Lashana Lynch). 

The relationship between Rita and Bob was the highlight of the film for me, with love and tension weaved into their dynamic throughout. They get some good moments to have honest and sometimes difficult conversations that showcase a connection that is inherent but clearly took a lot of work to maintain. 

There are references to some marital affairs that Bob Marley had but the film chooses not to focus on this. Similarly, but definitely not in theme, they do the same with his love of football. Choosing to focus on the story they did, made it seem like it would be a more focused plot, rather than just exploring every element of his life. I appreciate these nods, without deviating from the plot too much. 

In saying that, I do think there are some issues with the plot jumping in time, back to the past, at the beginning of Bob and Rita’s relationship. These are interesting insights into their origin but seem to come at times when the film doesn’t really know how to transition from scene to scene. The time jumps from place to place, sometimes just for the excuse to play another song. I don’t hate that this emphasis is put on the music, because the staging and showcase of these songs are pretty good. The mix of these live songs with real spaces does feel a bit off however, not quite lining up with the picture on screen. So many of these films have done this mix well that it is a bit odd to see it look so disjointed. 

Other than the mix, there are plenty of positives to talk about with the look of the film, which is clean and really dynamic in shot choice. It doesn’t let itself coast on the fact it's in beautiful places, the camera is placed intentionally and movements around the scenes are really engaging. 

The music itself is dropped in quite a lot, as I said, but doesn’t really feel out of place except for one quite emotionally intense scene that then transitions with quite an upbeat Bob song, really taking you out of the moment.

Overall, I think this film is fine. It doesn’t do anything special to stand out from the plethora of musical biopics out at the moment or the questionable ones on the horizon. I appreciate that these stories are being told and fans of these musicians can feel like they are getting a deeper insight into the lives of these performers. However, I would like if they were a little bit more interesting as films.


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