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Bob Marley: One Love

Paramount Pictures, 2024


Reinaldo Marcus Green / Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, Zach Baylin, and Reinaldo Marcus Green

Reading Time:

6 minutes

Bob Marley: One LoveMother Earth (UGMU6CW0MDCL4R3L)
00:00 / 06:59

📷 : Used with Permission, Dustin Knotek

Bob Marley: One Love


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Movies and TV shows with heart, positive vibes, and warm messages


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Reba Chaisson


We are so primed to the lies and pretentiousness of political and cultural leaders and even members of the judiciary that we have a knee-jerk reaction to sincerity. Sincerity is questioned in part because of our limited exposure to cultures outside of the Western mainstream, where perspectives, attitudes, and approaches to life and living are different from our own. This film about the life of Bob Marley stands a chance at challenging our cynicism about the possibility that sincerity can be real.

Bob Marley: One Love is about the musician’s constant and incessant search for ways to fulfill the purpose he believes Jah (God) has for him. Set in Jamaica and the UK, the film begins with the adult Marley, played by Kingsley Ben-Adir (Barbie, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword), arranging a concert to bring peace to his country, which is divided by factions warring for power. The divisions are a result of Jamaica’s recent independence from Britain and the familiar vacuum that colonial powers create when they leave territories in political and economic ruins. Marley expects his melodies of love and unity to transcend the actions of his fellow Jamaicans, transform their thinking, and motivate them to put down their guns – until he is targeted by rebels who invade his home and shoot him. Such trauma would lead many people to question their faith and the understanding of their purpose. Marley, instead, questions his countrymen.

In an exchange with his long-time mentor, Marley expresses his incredulity about the incident, stating, “I would have never believed they would try to kill me!” Family Man Barrett, his mentor played by Aston Barrett Jr., passionately responds, “The question is not why they tried to kill you. It’s why they did not succeed.”

Marley doesn’t falter in his purpose after the trauma, instead striving to strengthen his music and move people to change in these new post-colonial times. For now, the sound is imperfect. The drums are not quite right. Even the album cover isn’t on point. Ever more focused, he moves as if guided by something deeply spiritual and he refuses to deviate from its instruction.

Bob Marley: One Love will likely be criticized as a display of reggae music rather than a story about the man’s life. He draws thousands to his riveting concerts all over Europe and sings sweet quiet songs with soft melodies and lyrics about love. I agree that the film is heavily infused with Marley’s music and performances. However, it also gives us context and perspective for Marley’s life with glimpses into his childhood and the painful void left by a father who shunned him. I would also argue that the movie portrays Marley as an imperfect man who cares deeply for his wife Rita, played by Lashana Lynch (No Time to Die, Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical), and has a special relationship with his son, Ziggy. And while a lot of bands disband because of divisiveness or changing interests, Marley’s band remains intact and steadfast, even after relocating to Britain for a time. So, understanding this film as it regards Marley’s life beyond his music requires hearing what is unspoken and seeing what is not front and center.

A fair criticism of the movie is the lack of space given to other reggae artists. People younger than 40 are likely unfamiliar with Bob Marley since he passed away in 1981 and reggae is not a part of mainstream music in the West. So, Marley and his music not only predate rap, pop, and alt rock, it stems from a part of the globe that few of us think to visit when we vacation – Jamaica. In addition, Western media utters little about the goings on in this former British territory. The movie compounds this by zeroing in only on Marley’s world. In my humble opinion, this is a missed opportunity for the film given the captive mainstream audience. It was a chance to expose us to the range of this genre, not only its sound during Marley’s era but also through to its present beats. Who are the artists? What is their message? How has the genre changed over the years and how has it influenced other music? Why don’t we hear it on the radio stations that tend to keep only a dozen songs in their playlist despite music like reggae that is pop and rock adjacent? Introducing reggae artists in the film could have gone a long way in broadening viewers’ minds and expanding their tastes into this segment of the music industry.

Small Axe, a series of five shorts by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, depicts the harassment experienced by people from the West Indies between the late 1960s and early 1980s in Britain. We see an example of this in Bob Marley: One Love when Marley and his friends are pushed around by the police, searched and thrown in jail for standing around a statue at night and talking. The fact-based Small Axe series suggests that Marley and his friends endured much more physical harassment than was shown. The scenes are likely crafted in this manner to keep the movie positive and avoid detracting from the emphasis on Marley and his message of love. This is not an unusual tactic in film. Indeed, Mr. Church did something similar where it omitted historical context so as not to distract from the story’s focus on the main character. As I said then, it does beg the question on whether a story should be presented with complete and accurate historical context, or if filmmakers have tacit permission to strip away extraneous but ugly information that can add noise to the film and disrupt its themes. The approach depends on what the filmmakers want to convey.

Marley’s love and respect for people was so genuine that he nearly takes the head off his manager for bringing corruption into his space. In an interview, he stated that his kind of rich could not be measured in money. His kind of rich was love, safety, and happiness for all people, and this strand ran throughout his life and music. What do you do with such a unicorn? How do you wrap your arms around someone who is such an oddity? Whether we realize it or not, we miss Marley. It is sad that we did not have the pleasure of being wrapped in his ever-evolving music for a longer period of time. We could sure use a unicorn today. Yeahh maan!

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