Bob Marley: One Love

This new film, with producer credits for several members of the Marley family, features Kingsley Ben-Adair as Bob Marley, and charts a course from the political violence of Jamaica through to commercial success in the UK. The historical perspective is uneven, for instance in the detailed attention given to the release of Exodus as though this was a surprise commercial breakthrough whereas its release in 1977 actually came at the peak of the Wailers fame, following the earlier success of Catch a Fire, Burnin’, and other releases. While the link to the emergence of punk rock at about the same time in the 1970s is portrayed on film, it is brief and sketchy. Although Ben-Adair is fairly convincing in his role as Marley, some other characters are less developed: the portrayal here of Chris Blackwell, for example, is one-dimensional and unpersuasive.

Some elements of the film worked well and certainly it improves in its latter half. The shadowy figure of Marley’s father, the white Scottish/Jamaican, appears and re-appears in the film to slightly chilling effect. The director’s (Reinaldo Marcus Green) habit of switching between Bob’s early life and his current circumstances is effective. And, of course, the music is excellent, closing with One Love as Marley nears his death.     

This isn’t the first film about Bob Marley’s life and death and doubtless it won’t be the last. The hope is that the next one captures his life and his music more completely, including the commercial forces that prompted or perhaps manufactured a transition from pop-reggae (such as What’s New Pussycat in 1965) to an emergent rebel music in the early 70s and thereafter.  

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