Latest in a long line of music bio-pics is Bob Marley One Love that follows a chapter in the life of the reggae legend. It’s a bio-pic that’s been a long time coming with the star having died in 1981 any film would need his music and his estate have been understandably protective over any portrayal of his life and legacy.
This picks up in 1976 with Marley already a huge star in his native Jamaica which at the time was being torn apart by warring political factions and murderous gang warfare. It was Marley who had been approached to stage a hoped for unifying peace concert despite the reservations of some of those closest to him not to get involved. As it turns out the concert almost doesn’t happen when he, his wife and a band member are shot by gang members in a failed assassination attempt.
But with his wife Rita hospitalized he does what any loving husband would do – he swiftly departs for Europe, specifically London where the UK itself was a simmering hot bed of racial and political tensions giving rise to the pre-eminent music of the time with the punk movement. Marley and his group soak up the atmosphere watching bands play – there’s an especially relevant recreation of the The Clash belting out White Riot ( Why have we not has a Clash bio-pic?). But it’s here that he begins work on his masterpiece, the Exodus album that he intends to tour the world with and is especially keen to take it to Africa in part due to his Rastafarian admiration of Ethiopean Emperor Haile Salassie but finds it prey to the avarice and corruption of those he think she can trust.
As Marley actor Kingsley Ben-Adir is spot on wholly absorbing the mannerisms, and patois of the musician in an admirable portrayal of the man and Lashana Lynch (one of the many highlights of No Time to Die) is good in the somewhat underwritten role of Rita Marley. His songs, so crucial to any bio-pic, segue effortlessly and smoothly into the drama and without them, like the disastrous David Bowie bio-pic ‘Stardust’ would have struggled. So the music was licensed by the family and consequently it looks like they all have some story of producer credit and the likelihood therefore is that they had a hand in the script too because there are problems with just focussing on that admittedly important two years.
The film has occasional flashbacks to the early days of Bob and Rita’s relationship which are underwhelming and Marley propensity for other women whilst married is almost flatly ignored. But due to Kingsley Ben-Adir sympathetic portrayal his humanity does shine through. And he comes across as the most readily accessible and open of stars – playing football in the park with friends and going to gigs with the public – and a recurring image of a flaming field of crops as he looks pines for his own absent father are striking though ironic when he himself two years in London whilst his wife and children are in the US.
On Love is a serviceable and enjoyable biopic and its one that fans of Marley and his music will love
related feature : David Bowie bio-pic ‘Stardust’ reviewed
Here’s Bob Marely One Love trailer……