Bob Marley: One Love Review

Featuring tremendous performances from Kingsley Ben-Adir and Lashana Lynch, there’s very little to connect with here outside of the great tunes.

Last Updated on February 26, 2024

PLOT: The story of how reggae icon Bob Marley overcame adversity, and the journey behind his revolutionary music.

REVIEW: I remember discovering Bob Marley in college and being blown away at the amount of passion he put into his music. Those on the outside may have just minimalized him to simply being a reggae pot smoker, but he was so much more than that. His message of peace through unity always stuck in this hippie’s mind. So I’ve always felt Bob would be a fantastic subject for a big-budget musical biopic. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’m any closer to knowing the man than I was before sitting down in the theater.

Bob Marley: One Love follows Marley through one of the biggest times of his life: the creation of Exodus and his unity concert(s) in Jamaica. The film does a good job of showing just how much music can affect people. Marley was more than just a musician in Jamaica: he was an icon. And they do a great job of presenting him as such. The crowds of adoring fans and looks of sheer amazement that his band members give him, do a great job of showing what a presence he was. I’ve grown to hate CGI crowds, as they take some of the soul out of moments. But I’d say they absolutely nail it here, with the right blend of real crowds, with digital ones.

Bob Marley: One Love review

Kingsley Ben-Adir is absolutely wonderful as Bob Marley, getting down the voice and mannerisms perfectly. Bob is a very unique individual, so it’s nice to see Kingsley nail the nuances. A “vibe” is a very hard thing to get right, but the energy that Kingsley exudes is the perfect encapsulation of the legendary reggae artist. Sure, he’s about a foot larger than Marley was in real life, but I’ll always argue things like that can be ignored with a great performance. While most of the performances feature Marley’s real voice, there are some jam sessions where Ben-Adir’s work shines through.

I was most impressed with Lashana Lynch‘s Rita Marley, who has one of the most powerful scenes in One Love. There were hints at their unique relationship, but I would have liked to have seen it expanded a bit. Instead, their story feels mostly like one that plays out off-camera. The audience is given very little outside of the music side of Bob. When you see the credits roll, you’ll notice many Marley’s were involved with production. This means there’s authenticity in the music and look that cannot be ignored. Though it’s hard not to wonder if this would have felt a little more true with a little less involvement. Bob is essentially treated as this godlike figure, with very few flaws. They don’t address his womanizing and just gloss over his many children with different women. At one point, he goes from having two kids to suddenly having a bunch, with little to no explanation.

Bob Marley: One Love review

Much of the problem with Bob Marley: One Love is its lack of truth. I’m not sure if is just the idolization of the man, without getting into the stuff that made him human or the lack of meaty emotional moments, it didn’t make for a satisfying narrative. Sure, the music is wonderful but it feels like it’s doing so much of the heavy lifting with the narrative. The lyrics are constantly spelling out the message versus letting the audience experience it themselves. Remember, show, don’t tell. The most interesting elements are simply glossed over. Even Marley’s cancer feels like just another box they have to check off in the story versus the massive life event that it was.

I was also very disappointed with how the film simply ends. There’s a massive buildup to Jamaica uniting and Bob playing this concert. Yet this information ends up being given through archive footage and on-screen titles. In the end, Bob Marley: One Love is an uneven film with some tremendous performances. It ultimately doesn’t end up being anything other than a way to introduce a younger generation to a talented artist they may not be familiar with. But in terms of getting to understand the man behind it all? At this point, I’m not sure we’ll ever get that in movie form.

BOB MARLEY: ONE LOVE IS PLAYING IN THEATERS ON FEBRUARY 14TH, 2023.

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Tyler Nichols is a horror fanatic who resides in Michigan and is always on the hunt for the next great film. When not scouring the internet for movie news, he is usually off watching something dark, writing nonsensical musings, or playing in some fantastical video game world. While horror takes up most of his time, he still makes time for films of all types, with a certain affinity for the strange and unusual. He’s also an expert on all things Comic Book Cinema. In addition to reviews and interviews here on JoBlo.com, Tyler also helps with JoBlo Horror Originals where he’s constantly trying to convince viewers to give lesser-known horror films a chance.