‘Bob Marley: One Love’ Review: For The Love Of The Music Behind The Man

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Bob Marley: One Love (2024) © Paramount Pictures

The new Bob Marley biopic, Bob Marley: One Love, has garnered mixed reviews. Some critics call it an anaesthetised account of his life, while others point out the fake Patois that permeates the film. What has undoubtedly drawn spectators in, other than a morbid curiosity in the premature death of a superstar, is admiration for a musical legacy that borders on the sacred. 

Bob Marley: One Love begins with the assassination attempt that necessitated Marley’s desertion of Jamaica for a brief time. At the peak of political unrest in 1976, two armed men (in reality, there were seven) raid the reggae musician’s house in Kingston and try to take his life. Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) escapes relatively unscathed, while his wife Rita (Lashana Lynch) suffers severe injuries. Marley is left reeling in distress and presented with a troubling moral quandary: does he flee, ensuring safety but risking integrity, or remain, placing himself in imminent danger? Aside from the personal turmoil that forms the driving force of Bob Marley: One Love, there is still a clear sense of homage paid to Marley’s artistic capabilities. The film contains a distinctly musical element—for what is sound if not a private dream made public? 

Despite the personal and global discord transpiring, the core emotion powering the dramatisation is positivity. There is limited screen time in which the actors are not singing, strumming, or swaying in some capacity, which is as cinematically pleasing as it is contagious. A particularly captivating dimension of the film is the illumination into the behind-the-scenes creative process of Bob Marley and The Wailers. 

After the group leaves to seek sanctuary in London, viewers are given insight into the imagined creation of Exodus, particularly Natural Mystic, where Marley implores his band to concoct a ‘creeping’ sensation. You can hear his vision occupy audible space as you listen to the first few seconds of the track. The beat, both literally and figuratively, ‘creeps’ into the eardrums in effervescent, gentle explosions of sound. If music had physical form, the song would resemble bubbles rising up from the deepest parts of the ocean. In this way, Marley’s genius makes accessible the impossible: a communion with the unknown.

Bob Marley: One Love (2024) © Paramount Pictures

To speak of Bob Marley is to speak of the acknowledgment and identification with the creative spirit. What he birthed into existence in his transient 36 years was bigger than life because it transmuted something that speaks to the soul. His music has become a microcosm for unity, his face an emblem for freedom. His acoustic expressions are able to communicate a felt emotion that surpasses all language, collapsing barriers to connection that our own egos often impose. 

Though, as if to ground us to the unfortunate facts of his life, Bob Marley: One Love portrays the health concerns that begin with a toe injury and culminate with the discovery of a skin cancer that ultimately ends his life. Here we see Marley grapple with the inevitability of death. Rita sticks with him until the end, assuaging Marley’s understandable fears regarding premature mortality.

Bob Marley: One Love (2024) © Paramount Pictures

Bob Marley: One Love concludes with a re-enactment of the Jamaican One Love Peace Concert in 1978, where Marley brings opposing political leaders together on stage in a demonstration of humanity, compassion, and harmony. It is a testament to Marley that, even now, decades later, people still associate his being as synonymous to peace. In performance, his gyrations show him in touch with ‘Jah’, yielding to an interior equanimity that is unlocked as his sweet melodies move through the body. He allows us to break through the dimness of consciousness of the everyday and to access the sublime, inviting us into paradise, possibility, to an informal sense of prayer. 

Ultimately, his music is metaphysical in nature, and Bob Marley: One Love makes a brilliant attempt at demonstrating this. Marley’s reggae tunes supersede the physical and allow us to tap into something higher. In echoing his words, it seems you truly “can’t separate the music and the message”. Contemplated in this small statement is a rare synthesis of the incomprehensible; a sonic legacy propelled by the higher being some call God. Though many have private aversions to this sometimes-contentious moniker, what is shared is the enjoyment of a musical genre that pulses with an optimistic vibrancy. The beauty of his music is as intangible as it is perceptible, moving us closer to a feeling of oneness, both to ourselves and one another. 

Words by Jade Serna


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1 COMMENT

  1. Utterly brilliant. Movie gave me goosebumps. The article brought it all back. What was also poignant in the movie was Rita Marley’s struggles both as a wife / mother / artist and warrior for Bob.

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