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Bob Marley: One Love

A Triumphant Tale of Bob Marley's Life

By Geoffrey Philp Published 2 months ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
Poster for Bob Marley: One Love

I just saw the new Bob Marley biopic yesterday and loved it! It captured Bob's journey from a fatherless "half-caste" bwai to becoming the leading messenger of Rastafari and a beacon of Black redemption. Bob Marley: One Love was faithful to that spirit and struggle.

The film traces the events surrounding the "Smile Jamaica" concert, when there was an attempt on Bob's life, to his triumphant return in the "One Love Peace Concert" where he brought Michael Manley and Edward Seaga together on stage, clasped their hands and pronounced his blessings of peace and prosperity on the crowd.

It must have been difficult to fit Bob's complex life story into a single film narrative. And I can understand why some think liberties were taken with the script. But there is a difference between a person and a character in a film. Real lives are messy and filled with countless characters that would be impossible to include in a 2-hour movie. Screenwriters must make hard choices about what to keep and what to cut while crafting a compelling story arc that captures the essence of a life.

Bob had many confidants like Seeco, Allan "Skill" Cole, and Diane Jobson. But to remain true to the logic of the script, the writers got creative by having the character Rita Marley represent the essence of his key relationships. This was a smart move – it streamlined the story and remained loyal to the movie's theme of unity and overcoming adversity. It also makes sense dramatically. Bob was married to Rita. Rita was there from the beginning, when he was an aspiring musician, and was with Bob when his body was brought back to rest at Nine Mile.

Biopics can never be 100% factual when portraying a real person’s life on screen. Life is messy, filled with endless characters, backstories, subplots, and loose threads that are impossible to capture fully. Bob Marley: One Love embraced the drama and emotion of Bob’s life story. The ending disclaimer reminds us that some creative liberty was taken in adapting his expansive story into a tightly focused film. And that’s understandable if it helps us connect with his experiences, especially those that reveal a vulnerable man struggling with all the demands of the people who surrounded him, especially Jamaican youth for whom he had become a symbol of our own questions about identity.

I also loved lead actor Kingsley Ben-Adir's empathetic portrayal of Bob. He fully immersed himself in the role and internalized Bob’s essence. For any who may have preferred another actor in the iconic role, Ben-Adir’s raw talent dispels all doubts. Not everyone can act convincingly on screen. It takes a rare skill, whether innate or learned through rigorous training, to inhabit a character and bring it to life fully. It means understanding scene objectives, subtexts, camera angles, and everything else that goes into each shot and sequence. Kingsley Ben-Adir showed why he is a rising star in the making. His ability to completely mesmerize audiences is a special gift, and the filmmakers took a bold yet extremely rewarding chance, casting him to carry Marley’s musical legacy into the future.

If you've ever gotten lost in one of Bob Marley's songs and wondered about the real-life circumstances that inspired his poetic lyrics, Bob Marley: One Love offers that backstory while capturing what made Bob such a towering yet humble figure. I highly recommend all fans check out this film to deepen their understanding of the man behind the music. By skillfully blending facts with dramatic interpretation, Bob Marley: One Love succeeds at honoring his legacy as an artist and activist who taught us the power of One Love.

Here are a few other posts I've written about Bob Marley:

activismmovie review

About the Creator

Geoffrey Philp

I am a Jamaican writer. I write poems (haiku & haibun), stories & essays about climate change, Marcus Garvey, music icons such as Bob Marley, and the craft of writing through personal reflection & societal engagement.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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