Bob Marley: One Love: The Message and the Messenger

Sometimes, the best way to share a person’s entire legacy is to focus in on a moment.

Set in the late 1970s, Bob Marley: One Love follows Bob Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) as he attempts to help his home country of Jamaica during a time of political division. With the develop of Smile Jamaica, a free concert with an emphasis on unity, Marley hoped to inspire his nation to come together. However, after things go horribly wrong, Marley and his wife, Rita (Lashana Lynch) flee to England, where they would create his most famous project, Exodus.

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, Bob Marley: One Love is an absolutely stunning cry out for love to change the world. Although there have been a rash of biopics in recent years, usually focusing on their subject with broadstrokes. But One Love takes an entirely different approach. Rather than attempt to tell Marley’s whole story, One Love expands upon a key moment of his life. By focusing on the events between 1976 and 1978, the viewer taps into Marley at a crucial moment of his life. From the creation of his iconic album, Exodus, to the development of ‘Smile Jamaica’, these three years have become synonymous with some of Marley’s most powerful accomplishments. Yes, flashbacks help to fill in the gaps where necessary but, ultimately, this a portrait of a man accomplishes more by sitting with him during these days of triumph and tribulation. 

Lashana Lynch as “Rita Marley” and Kingsley Ben-Adir as “Bob Marley” in Bob Marley: One Love from Paramount Pictures.

It should come as no surprise that music is featured heavily throughout One Love. But, while the soundtrack rules, it’s actually the performances that are most memorable, especially from its two leads. As the man himself, Kingsley Ben-Adir’s transformation is absolutely stunning. With Marley‘s signature style and grace, Ben-Adir brings the icon to life with such joy that one hopes people remember him during next year’s awards season. Even in the film’s heaviest of moments, Ben-Adir infuses a spark of love into the darkness. Whether he’s wrestling with cancer diagnoses or dealing with the shock of gunfire, there’s a steadiness in his performance that never betrays the soul of Marley’s music and message. 

Not to be outdone, the film features incredible work by Lashana Lynch as Marley’s wife. As Rita, Lynch is an absolute powerhouse, as she both supports and challenges Marley‘s legacy. There is a strength within her that counterbalances Marley’s more laid-back approach. She brings out the best in him and is also able to hold him accountable for his failings. Together, the pair are an incredible on-screen duo that bring the film to life.

Underneath the music lies the story of a man who recognizes the power of his message. Marley is handled with sensitivity and care, never wavering from his message of hope and peace. Having come out of a nation of turmoil, he is as committed to change as he is deeply spiritual. His Rastafarian faith instills his soul with hope, and he is determined to bring that to the people, at a time when they need it most. 

Kingsley Ben-Adir as “Bob Marley”, Anna-Sharé Blake as “Judy Mowatt”, Lashana Lynch as “Rita Marley”, and Naomi Cowan as “Marcia Griffiths” in Bob Marley: One Love from Paramount Pictures.

But, more than this, One Love also features a deep connection between the message and the messenger. For Marley, the message is more than app platitude. It is way of life that must be owned by each individual person who hears it. Marley believe that the message in the music is transformative. His grace, spirit, and passion for unity are embedded within every tune and he pleads with his audience to apply it to their daily lives. 

This is his gospel, and he is willing to die for it. 

And that’s where the power of Bob Marley: One Love truly lies. While many people will go to the theatre strictly for Marley’s music, One Love wants you to absorb his message on a deeper level. This is a film that understands that the message it speaks is even more powerful than the icon itself. In essence, this is a cry for peace in a broken world.

And that’s a legacy that would make Marley proud.

Bob Marley: One Love is available on VOD/Digital on March 19th, 2024.

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