London-born actor Kingsley Ben-Adir (World War Z, One Night In Miami) stars as reggae superstar Bob Marley in this perfectly serviceable biopic from King Richard director Reinaldo Marcus Green. Written by Green, Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, and Zach Baylin and from a story by Winter and Flowers, Bob Marley: One Life charts the life of the Jamaican singer from his rise to fame to his untimely death at the age of 36.
Bob Marley: One Love portrays the tumultuous political and social landscape of Jamaica following its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962. Amidst escalating tensions between rival gangs, Marley finds himself thrust into the midst of national turmoil. When he is approached to participate in a peace concert aimed at uniting the people, Marley realises that his involvement in politics could jeopardise not only his career but also his life.
Following a failed assassination attempt that leaves his wife Rita (Lashana Lynch, exquisite) hospitalised, Marley makes the decision to depart for Europe, while Rita heads to the states with their children. In London, Bob and his band attract increasing attention from the American and European press as they prepare for a global tour and enjoy the success of their chart-topping album Exodus. As Marley contemplates his place in the world and his country’s history, he grapples with the complexities of fame, politics, and personal legacy.
Under the direction of Reinaldo Marcus Green, Bob Marley: One Love often feels like a by numbers affair, but this isn’t to say that the film isn’t at the same time hugely compelling. There are some genuinely thrilling performances here from Lynch and Ben-Adir, while the original soundtrack packed with Marley’s most loved songs add a certain effervescence to the proceedings.
While contrived moments, might feel like a toe-curling exercise in whatever the opposite of “show don’t tell” might be, one can’t help but find a lot of authenticity in the way the story is told. This is a film that knows its audience inside out and isn’t afraid to capitalise of the singer’s varied musical catalogue to keep us hooked.
Is Bob Marley: One Love ever likely to reinvent the biopic wheel, of course not, but there is absolutely no doubt that fans of Marley and Reggae as a whole won’t care a single bit about what critics might have to say about it.