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Bob Marley: One Love ★★★



Released: 14th February

Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green

Starring: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton, Sevana, Tosin Cole

King Richard was a huge success for Director Reinaldo Marcus Green in 2021, earning six Oscar nominations. His follow-up film sees him take on another iconic real-life figure in the shape of Reggae titan Bob Marley.  Bob Marley: One Love focuses on Marley’s life while recording Exodus, one of his best-known albums, following an attempt on his life in December 1976.

Zoning in on a specific period of his life gives the narrative more focus than biopics that chart an artist’s whole life, although the run time of 104 minutes is on the slighter side. Taking on the arduous task of portraying such a giant is Kingsley Ben-Adir, best known for Barbie and One Night In Miami with Lashana Lynch playing Rita Marley. The pair do a serviceable job with strong chemistry. As with other films of this nature, there is an element of impersonation involved with Ben-Adir not singing any vocals, with the real vocals used throughout.

With the runtime under two hours, there is an element of looseness to the narrative as we move from the shooting to the recording of the album in London. The group go from recording some of its best-loved tracks to being global superstars. While there are hints of interesting narrative choices, infidelity and struggles with the limelight, it feels a tad sanitised perhaps owing to the involvement of the family.

There is an awful lot crammed in here, dealing with Marley’s faith and relationship with Rita and The Wailers whilst also tackling the Cancer that would ultimately claim his life in 1981. We get frequent short flashbacks to his time starting with The Wailers that help to flesh things out and there are some fun hints at the culture of the time with the band seeing The Clash who were big fans of Marley’s work.

There is plenty for fans in particular to enjoy with many hits played throughout, serving as a reminder of the timelessness of his back catalogue. Meanwhile the performers do a commendable job yet it feels a tad haphazard and muddled to make a lasting impact in the way the best biopics have. Kevin Macdonald’s 2012 documentary Marley arguably does a better job getting under his skin, but ‘One Love is an enjoyable enough time albeit falling short of greatness.

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