Bob Marley: One Love (12A) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Reinald Marcus Green, US 2024, 107 mins.

Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton

Review by Carlie Newman

I went into this film as someone who has enjoyed Bob Marley’s music and came out to as a huge fan! With Bob Marley’s family and friends on board as producers, advisers and even actors as three sons of the original Wailers group play their fathers, the film has a genuine feel about it.  The downside is that everyone wants to portray Bob in the best possible light so the fact that he has numerous affairs and a number of children outside of his relationship with wife Rita (who also had affairs) is briefly glossed over.

However, we get to know a lot about the real Bob Marley (played by Kingsley Ben-Adir) as the film focusses on the important events of 1976 and 1978.  We see the Reggae King as a family man and in particular his close relationship with wife Rita (Lashana Lynch).  We witness the assassination attempt on his life in 1976 and see how he relocates to England for a time before returning to his beloved homeland of Jamaica.  

Marley wants peace and strives for unity.  He performs at a legendary concert, One Love peace concert in April 1977. At one point he brings on to the stage rival politicians, from the two main political parties, Michael Manley from the democratic socialist People’s National Party, the then Prime Minister and Edward Seaga from the Conservative Jamaican Labour Party.  Marley’s aim was to bring people together with music.

Ben-Adir performs amazingly as Marley.  I never saw him in person but film of Marley in concert and then seeing Ben-Adir inhabiting the character is mind blowing.  Rita Marley – often underestimated as a musician and supporter of her husband – is played with seeming accuracy by Lashana Lynch.  The Rastafarian religion was important to both of them and there are many references in the movie.  Marley died of cancer at the much too early age of 36.

James Norton, best known for his stage and TV roles in the UK, gives a solidly good performance as Chris Blackwell, head of Island Records.

But what gives the film light and, in many ways, majesty is the music.  The actors and musicians lip-synch to the actual music of Bob Marley and The Wailers – not forgetting the three backing singers, known as the I-Threes; Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt (Anna-Share Blake and Marcia Griffiths (Naomi Cowan). The music is a pure joy and hearing the actual Bob Marley and The Wailers perform is well worth your admission price to the movie!