Bob Marley: One Love | Hallowed be his name…

Built around actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, Bob Marley: One Love constitutes an operation of beatification in the pure tradition of authorized biographies. The musical sequences lift this sometimes enlightening film, which often stays on the surface of things.

You may have to have set foot on a Caribbean island and seen the people vibrating to the sound of reggae to understand its significance. Here, between two puffs, we sometimes still understand the political message, but much less the spiritual part. However, it is inseparable from this music and from the quest that is at once intimate, political and mystical for its icon, told today in the film Bob Marley: One Love.

Bob Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) is already an international star when the film begins at the end of 1976. He is also a demigod at home in Jamaica, a country then marked by a gang war linked to political parties. Which does not mean that he is unanimous: two days before his announced participation in a concert organized by the government, he is the victim of an assassination attempt.

The singer, injured, will participate in the event. Shortly after, he went into exile in London, where most of the film takes place. There, he was confronted with the emergence of the punk movement and devoted most of his energies to preparing for the sequel, that is to say, to creating his album Exodus. He did not return home until 1978, for another concert with peaceful aims, during which he ensured that the leaders of the country’s two main political parties shook hands.

Ambitious operation

By choosing to focus on this pivotal two-year period, director Reinaldo Marcus Green (King Richard, about the father of the Williams sisters), says he will find the essence of his subject there. Which is ambitious, given the complexity of the issues and the character.

Jamaica’s volatile political climate is well discussed, if not explained. However, by placing Bob Marley at the height of his glory from the outset, we learn nothing about the political significance of his songs. We already discover him wearing the revolutionary halo, almost untouchable and… surrounded by armed guards as if he too were a gang leader.

Kingsley Ben-Adir is convincing as Bob Marley, whose “patois” – Jamaican Creole – he goes so far as to imitate, which can pose challenges to understanding. The actor plays a star more concerned with his faith and his political project than with his celebrity. Except that it is better to already have an idea of ​​what the Rastafarian faith and the ideology of Pan-Africanism mean to grasp the underlying thread of the film. The screenplay explains little about them, focusing instead on numerous musical scenes which prove to be very engaging and give the work most of its strength.


A still from the film Bob Marley: One Love

The “poetic” flashbacks to evoke the abandonment of Bob Marley by his father and the symbolic link woven back to Haile Selassie (emperor of Ethiopia revered by the Rastas) are indeed unconvincing. Those intended to explain the strong ties that unite Bob and his wife Rita Marley (excellent Lashana Lynch) are enlightening, but played in a honeyed tone.

Rita Marley, who is still alive, proves to be the strongest character in the film. With her husband, she forms an almost presidential couple, united by a common goal. It was she who introduced him to Rastafarianism, recalls the film, which on the other hand only touches on the unusual complexity of this couple, brushing aside in particular the complicated question of his offspring.

Bob Marley: One Love is in fact content to follow the precepts of the authorized biography almost to the letter (family members collaborated in the process, which undoubtedly explains this). It illuminates a trajectory, sometimes convincingly, but digs very little into its main character. He hardly dwells on his dark sides and his inevitable contradictions, striving to make a saint of him and to give luster to an already imposing myth. The mention of his premature death, at the age of 36, after he finally realized his dream of singing in Africa, for the liberation of Zimbabwe, seals the canonization. The reggae icon must have turned in his grave seeing what has become of the liberator Robert Mugabe…

  Bob Marley: One Love

Biographical drama

Bob Marley: One Love

Reinaldo Marcus Green

Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton

1:47 a.m.



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