When you go behind the scenes of any icon’s life, there always seems to be a conflicted mix of hardship, talent and nuanced views on fame. Jamaican reggae singer and guitarist Bob Marley is no different.
With new biopic One Love crediting him as a pioneer of the genre while also revealing the complexities of his dedication to his Rastafarian faith and the expectations of his homeland as his fame skyrocketed.
Executive produced by Brad Pitt and many of the Marley family line, One Love focuses on the years between 1976 and 1978 when Bob’s (Kinglsley Ben-Adir’s) ascension in the music industry was reaching a new peak against the backdrop of a particularly tumultuous time for Jamaica.
As much as Bob’s music is central to the movie, it’s also a love letter to his widow Rita Marley (Lashana Lynch) and the influence she had on Bob’s success.
The film glosses over Bob’s substance abuse and extramarital affairs (which amounted to 7 illegitimate children), using one line in a fight between he and Rita to note the motherly role she’s assumed. But it’s a choice that allows you to see aspects of Bob’s life that get lost behind that reputation.
One Love depicts Bob as a man deeply devoted to his Rastafarian faith – a religious tradition seen as an offshoot to Abrahamic traditions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It refers to the Judeo-Christian God as ‘Jah’ and followers believe Christ came to Earth as a divine manifestation of Jah.
This faith is what motivates Bob to use his music to bring unity between opposing political parties and people, and with the encouragement Rita, to see his personal sufferings as part of the message of hope he offers the world.
Being a “person of faith” doesn’t acquit Bob of a dualistic lifestyle, but One Love attempts to show how passionately Bob believed in living a life of meaning and serving both his family and country.
Unlike Elton John biopic Rocketman, or Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, One Love primarily features Bob Marley’s original vocals with Kingsley Ben-Adir’s mixed in for some spontaneous musical moments, meaning it doesn’t quite hit the same Academy-Award winning notes of the others, but you can still get lost in Ben-Adir’s embodiment of Bob.
Unfortunately, some of the heavily accented dialogue will be lost on subtitle-loving viewers, but whether you see One Love in cinemas or at home it’ll still offer a valid lesson in music history and the inspiration behind an iconic life cut short.
One Love is in cinemas February 14.