Bob Marley: One Love

Kingsley Ben-Adir stars in a scene from the movie “Bob Marley: One Love.” The OSV News classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may not be suitable for children. (OSV News photo/Chiabella James, Paramount Pictures)

NEW YORK (OSV News) – In 1999, almost two decades after its creator’s untimely death at the age of 36, the 1977 reggae LP “Exodus” was named the album of the century by Time magazine. The making of that classic record is one of the events chronicled in the competent biographical drama “Bob Marley: One Love” (Paramount).

The film, which stars Kingsley Ben-Adir in the title role, focuses on the aftermath of a 1976 attempt on the singer-songwriter’s life in which his wife, Rita (Lashana Lynch), was seriously wounded. The attack was part of the political turmoil engulfing Marley’s homeland of Jamaica in the runup to a general election on the island in December of that year.

After fulfilling his commitment to perform at a concert intended to promote national unity only two days after the assault, Marley flees to London for safety. There he works with celebrated producer Chris Blackwell (James Norton) to craft “Exodus,” the popularity of which would help to elevate him to new heights of worldwide fame.

Yet Marley’s burgeoning professional success is eventually overshadowed by a medical problem that poses a grave threat to his future. In the face of it, he and Rita, whose initial romance is seen in flashbacks, overcome temporary tensions in their marriage to form a closer union than ever.

As depicted here, under Rita’s influence, her husband had long since become a dedicated Rastafarian. But viewers need not share the basic tenet of that faith — the divinity of Ethiopian Emperor Hailie Selassie — to appreciate Marley’s gently charismatic personality and artistic gifts.

Not long before his 1981 death, Marley — who, by some accounts, was raised Catholic — was baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox church. To what degree that reflected a fundamental shift in his beliefs is unclear.

A tumultuous conflict with his manager Don Taylor (Anthony Welsh) shows that Marley was not without his flaws. Yet that flareup is counterbalanced by his reaction when one of his assailants tearfully seeks his forgiveness.

More broadly, director and co-writer Reinaldo Marcus Green successfully captures Marley”s appealingly modest personality and anti-materialism. The script, penned in collaboration with Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers and Zach Baylin, also highlights Marley’s outsized influence as, on a global level, a voice for the impoverished and, more locally, a peacemaker.

As is well known, the use of marijuana is an integral aspect of Rastafarianism. Although this is treated in an unobtrusive manner, together with the fact that marital fidelity was not part of Marley’s lifestyle and the inclusion of some indigenous Jamaican off-color insults in the dialogue, it represents an appropriate source of concern for parents.

Grown moviegoers may find that this profile fails to live up to its subject’s impressive achievements. But, while the picture may lack heft, it’s at least an easy opportunity to discover – or rediscover – Marley’s lasting musical legacy.

The film contains brief gunplay and physical violence, frequent drug use, extra-scriptural religious ideas, references to adultery, a single instance each of profanity and milder swearing and a couple of vulgar patois terms. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


Scroll to Top