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Review: 'Bob Marley: One Love' is a passionate telling of musical greatness

Samantha Smith says a new biopic on the Jamaican reggae superstar handles his gravity well and benefits from a strong supporting cast.

(Paramount Studios/Everett Collection)

If you love Bob Marley’s music and his messages of unity, love, and freedom, “Bob Marley: One Love” is a must-see out now in theaters. The new feature film is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, whose previous work includes “Monsters and Men” and “King Richard.”

The movie follows Marley’s life from 1976 to 1978, a time that includes the height of his fame. Already a popular artist, Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) plans a unity concert to help stop violence in Jamaica between opposing political leaders. Two days prior to the concert, Marley, his wife Rita (Lashana Lynch), and his manager Don (Anthony Welsh) survive an assassination attempt believed to be rooted in the political unrest.

After performing the “Smile for Jamaica” concert for 80,000 people in Kingston, Rita and the children head to the United States to live with Marley’s mother in Delaware for their safety. Bob Marley and the Wailers leave for exile in London, where they record the masterpiece album, “Exodus.” Popular songs from the well-known album include “Three Little Birds,” “Jamming,” and “One Love.”

Soon after the album’s release, Marley’s popularity soars. After a successful tour in multiple countries, he returns to Jamaica for a historic One Love Peace Concert to encourage peace in his homeland.

Ben-Adir’s performance brings out the essence of Marley—an easygoing yet hardworking man determined to share a message with the world. Matched with Lynch’s caring and gritty performance, their chemistry serves as the backbone of the film.

In the two-year span of the film, Marley experiences extreme highs and lows—from an album of high acclaim to being diagnosed with melanoma, a skin cancer he succumbs to in 1981.

“That period of time was a very life-changing period for my father,” said Marley’s son Ziggy in a recent interview, “and he came to a conclusion at the end of that time period that his life wasn’t for him. His life is for people. That’s who Bob Marley is.”

The film adequately honors Marley and his messages of spirituality, social justice, and the unity of all people. That is the film the Marley family wanted to create.

“It’s not just a vanity project; it’s not just a film about the person, but a film about a message,” said Ziggy. 

In its nearly two-hour run time, “One Love” takes you on a journey with Marley in some of the most challenging and triumphant moments of his life. As you enjoy Marley’s soulful reggae music, his commitment to peace and unity is the true story—one we must continue to fight for, especially today.

Samantha Smith is a copy and content writer based in Atlanta. She worked for the Archdiocese of Atlanta for nearly a decade in various roles, including as a staff writer for The Georgia Bulletin, where she won numerous Catholic Press Awards for her writing and social media campaigns. Connect with Samantha by following her Catholic blog, Spirit and Sparkle, and her Twitter/X at @BeimaxCreates.

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