'Bob Marley: One Love' (2023) Review: A Film Fit For A Legend
In writing a review for ‘Bob Marley: One Love’, I must acknowledge a smidge of bias. At one point the film makes mention of young Nesta’s birthplace of “rural St. Ann”. It’s a fact that carries a lot more weight when you know what rural St. Ann looks like. Thinking of such humble beginnings makes Marley’s presence as an international music phenomenon all the more staggering. An impact that’s at the forefront in Bob Marley: One Love.
That impact exists whether its subject likes it or not, as the film shows a version of Bob Marley that can’t decide. As he prepares to host a peace concert to unite a country on the brink of conflict, he’s met with violent opposition from the very population he hopes to bring together. Suffering a crisis of confidence, he searches for a sense of purpose and questions his quest. The film shows Bob Marley in what appears to be the most important time of his life.
The tension gets thick and it puts Kingsley Ben-Adir to the test. As he takes on the mantle of Marley, Ben-Adir has to be a voice powerful enough to unite a nation, yet preternaturally humble. At one point, Marley’s antics disrupt the status quo so much, he’s labeled a threat to civil society, something an unpresuming man of the people is unable to take seriously. At another point, he’s a self proclaimed missionary of harmony, dedicated to taking the world through a revolution as is willed by a higher power.
Whether he’s affable or assertive, Ben-Adir is completely believable. His emotional state is conveyed in the tone of his voice, and his body language. He takes on not just a peace loving affect but delves into Marley’s temper when the need arises. No matter the emotion he plays the icon with pathos, in a performance that’s grounded in reality, with a solid accent to boot.
Joining Marley in this tumultuous journey is his wife Rita, played by Lashana Lynch. As a partner and a confidant, Rita’s presence in the film is an anchor. Her sense of confidence captivates the frame in each of her scenes. As her husband figures out his place in the world, Lynch plays Rita with a sense of security, knowing who she is and what she’s about.
Their relationship makes for one of the film’s strongest elements, with electric dialogue that ranges from intimate to explosive. It’s a dichotomy that’s mirrored throughout the film. It’s seen in Marley’s character, showing the unassuming family man as well as the world class reggae legend, and in the film’s music showing everything from sold out concerts to near empty studio sessions. Bob Marley: One Love gives you songs developed in their infancy, as well as full fledged displays on the world stage, each one sure to stir any Marley fan unable to resist the urge to sing along.
Bob Marley: One Love is the real deal. The balance that’s struck between several aspects of Marley’s life is solid, as is the movie’s grasp of humour and drama. The decision to focus on a singular period in the life of Bob Marley pays off greatly, resulting in a film that’s well paced. Its narrative styling of events creates just enough drama to be captivating, without losing its sense of authenticity. It’s a film that tries to be many things at once and manages to pull it all together in an inspiring and epic story.
Rating: Big Screen Watch
Note: While I appreciate you reading this review, movies are still incredibly subjective. If you think you might enjoy yourself, I encourage everyone to support the cinema industry as much as they can. Stay safe, and remember, life’s too short for bad movies.h