BY JACK RANSOM FEBRUARY 8, 2024
Bob Marley: One Love is the latest biopic based on a legendary musician to arrive on the big screen. Music biopics are a dominant force in the cinematic landscape. Always causing audience division, usually making a substantial box office haul and frequently seeing its lead performer nominated for awards aplenty. In the past few years we have had Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, Judy, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Elvis and Maestro just a few months ago, so it was inevitable that Bob Marley’s story would make its way to the to the silver screen.
Bob Marley: One Love tells the story of how reggae icon Bob Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) overcame adversity, and the journey behind his revolutionary music.
This biopic plays it very safe from a story structure and presentation perspective. Grooving along its 100 minute duration, showcasing Bob’s inspirations, adolescence and early-20’s via flashbacks and ticking off the familiar traits and tropes of this genre: studio/jam sessions of iconic tunes, a touring montage, the inevitable overbearing weight of fame/moment of tragedy, before a heartfelt and triumphant finale. It’s all here and can feel a little choppy at times, however I do feel that I have learnt more about Marley, and the film frequently emphasises just how important the message and power of music is for him. I do feel some elements outside of the music could have been more focused upon.
What I can certainly say for sure is that I need to delve further into Marley’s discography outside of just the biggest hits. There are some superb needle drops here and the soundtrack vibes are utterly infectious. From a technical perspective the film gets the job done, there are few inspired stylistic moments and shots (a recurring fiery memory and Marley haunted by the gunman that made the attempt on his life) and the concert sequences are filled with life, however there is nothing truly distinct or memorable being produced behind the camera between these moments.
The performances are strong, Kingsley Ben-Adir absolutely nails the voice, mannerisms and sheer amount of physicality and passion that Marley put into his live performances. Lashana Lynch delivers in the dramatic moments (one particular argument scene especially) and has a great presence.
Bob Marley: One Love is significantly carried by a fantastic lead performance and its electric musical inspiration. It does ultimately fall into very familiar music biopic territory in its presentation and can feel quite jumpy structure and glossed over in its subject details.