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Bob Marley: One Love Review

By: Ann Marie Collymore

In 2018, it was finally announced that Bob Marley’s biopic was coming to the big screen. Right away, it drew a lot of skepticism. Who would play Bob? Will they cast Jamaicans or at least Caribbeans in the roles? If not, will we be subjected to horrid representations and empty accents? People were heated and expressed their thoughts in lengthy posts, comments and videos. And rightfully so. 

The legendary Robert Nesta Marley is Jamaica’s Son. He’s a pioneer, a reggae music purveyor, and a global music icon. Many voices stood out against casting outside the box. The loudest naysayers were from Jamaica, its descendants and the rest of the Caribbean.

They made it clear that artificial Caribbean depictions wouldn’t be tolerated. There was no room for ‘selling out.’ They argued that the piece had to bring justice to Marley’s life in every facet. It was a tall order, but even though their decisions went against the grain, Bob Marley: One Love got it right.   

Bob Marley: One Love is produced in partnership with The Marley family, directed and co-written by Reinaldo Marcus Green (King Richard), written by Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers and Zach Baylin, and executive produced by Brad Pitt. The film focuses on Marley’s quest to spread the message of peace, love, and unity under the the heaviness of it all. We know of Bob Marley, the artist, musician, football player and peacemaker. But we’ve never been privy to his emotional state, the inner turmoil or the softness that he showed. Bob Marley: One Love reminds us that Marley was more than the person we knew via interview footage. He was straightforward, loving, stubborn, jealous and more than anything—human.

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.

Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch and crew did the work

Actor Kingsley Ben-Adir brought Marley’s true essence to life on screen. At first, you’ll automatically be forced to focus on his accent. Everyone definitely will. However, it’s clear when an actor of his calibre studies and does the work. From Marley’s free-spirited dance steps to his mannerisms, and yes, the accent—it was surreal. Ben-Adir’s performance was first-rate and delivered top-tier acting. He’s captivating and draws you into Marley’s story without a misstep.  

Lashana Lynch was outstanding as Rita Marley and reflected her character’s pain, strength, and requited love. It was a beautiful portrayal of the Marley matriarch. The two actors complemented and leaned into each other when needed. The climactic scene in the street between Rita and Bob at a meet-and-greet and watching the two come together after Marley’s cancer diagnosis via the washing of his locs makes the entire movie worthwhile. Many standout moments include watching the no-nonsense Coxsone Dodd at the taping of “Simmer Down” with The Wailers and the directors shining a light on the open racism in Jamaica’s society that Rastafarians contended with daily. Notably, their co-stars Sheldon Sheppard as Neville Garrick and James Norton as Chris Blackwell, among others, were well-rounded and they equally delivered phenomenal portrayals.    

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

Love is love 

Seeing Bob as a jealous man, knowing full well he didn’t dare have the nerve to be, was a different side we’re not used to experiencing. It was nice to get a glimpse into the man himself. Bob and Rita’s love for each other was unmistakable and on the forefront. In one of the early scenes, Bob is shot a few days before the 1976 Smile Jamaica concert. His first instinct is to run out and check for Rita, who doesn’t have time to make it out the gates to her destination. Throughout the film, you feel the tension and sense of urgency but it always returns to love. It wasn’t about anyone else. Bob and Rita solidified their union long before we even knew the man and the music. Regardless of the ‘running around,’ she was his rock and she stabilized him. Rita was home. Coupled with their love and synergy for music, Bob and Rita’s connection was rooted in compositions, spirituality and Rastafari. 

Kingsley Ben-Adir as “Bob Marley” and Director Reinaldo Marcus Green in Bob Marley: One Love from Paramount Pictures.

Representation of ‘home’ through cinematography 

I’m not Jamaican, but I am of Caribbean descent. I would undoubtedly be in my feelings if Jamaica was slighted in any way on screen. The people, clothing, and the air of both civil war and togetherness in Kingston, Jamaica, in the 70s, are superbly captured. The Marleys ensured that the land and people they loved were treated with the utmost respect. Green uses cinematography as art to immerse the viewer in Jamaica’s lushness. Crystal blue waterfalls, boisterous football fields, the spirit of Jah Rastafari and many other aspects of Jamaican life are detailed. The effectiveness of Green’s use of contrast between real and filmed footage gives the film an unforgettable and multifaceted look.    Of course, everyone will have their opinions. Including those who believe The Marleys didn’t know what they were doing with the direction of the film. Imagine being questioned about your own father’s legacy and how you envisioned it should be told. Yes, everything isn’t for everybody. Nevertheless, I’m asking you to keep an open mind and enter the theatre without all of the pretenses. All of the symbolism, writing, and context in the film meshed perfectly. Bob Marley: One Love drew a picture of the aura of a man who loved his country and people. A man who was intent on spreading peace, love and reggae music worldwide, and who will always call 56 Hope Road home.

About Ann Marie Collymore

Montreal-born Ann Marie “amc” Collymore is a veteran independent writer, blogger and copywriter with more than 20 years of experience writing for various print and online publications in Canada and the U.S. Her work has been featured on Centric TV/VH1 Networks, Toronto Life, Bustle.com, Revolt.tv and ByBlacks.com to name a few. amc was the host of a popular radio show/podcast with DJ Sean Sax called The Rhythm with AMC, which was syndicated on four American stations and one Canadian station. Always a creative at heart, you’re bound to find Ann Marie taking in a show, producing or networking in a city near you. amc resides in Toronto.

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