Bob Marley: One Love Movie Review: Kingsley Ben-Adir and Lashana Lynch Can’t Hide an Underwhelming Script About the Reggae Legend

Review: I still generally like Bob Marley: One Love more than some of the most uninspired musical biopics, but it pales in comparison to movies that better establish history through their central figures. Kingsley Ben-Adir and Lashana Lynch are remarkable in Reinaldo Marcus Green’s underwhelming follow-up to King Richard.

kingsley ben-adir as bob marley in one love
Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley in One Love

Currently, my least favorite subgenre in movies is the music biopic. Their hit rate is incredibly low, and I find most of them just renditions of Wikipedia life events about the main subject. For every good version of the music biopic (Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There initially comes to mind), there are about a dozen bad ones (just in the last few years: Elvis, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Bohemian Rhapsody, Maestro, the list goes on). This may be why I was particularly not over the moon to see Bob Marley: One Love even if I was so desperately curious to see an interesting version of the life of Bob Marley.

The movie begins with Marley’s son Ziggy appearing onscreen to tell audiences that he was present on set nearly every day to approve of the “authenticity” of the story moviegoers are about to see… never a good sign. What follows is a movie that succumbs to some of the worst musical biopic tropes and lives only through the lens of those closest to him without any objectivity. They siphon nearly every actual event in the life of Bob Marley and replace them with good vibes and an overstuffed message of loving one another. It isn’t all bad, but there’s so little to hold onto in terms of plot and narrative that you ultimately leave the theater feeling empty.

At the height of domestic tensions in Jamaica on the eve of an election that may spiral into a civil war, Bob Marley (played rapturously by Kingsley Ben-Adir, who rises from this misfire to still give one of the best performances in one of these kinds of movies yet) plans a peace concert to unite the country and call for de-escalation. As it gets closer, the walls of danger begin to creep up on him and his family (his wife Rita, played by Lashana Lynch).

Like mentioned above, there are a lot of vibes that are coursing throughout Bob Marley: One Love. Kingsley Ben-Adir somehow pulls off a striking performance as one of the most unique, indelible artists ever. The performances throughout are captivating beyond belief, and there’s a physicality to his performance that is an achievement in and of itself. He captures the vulnerability of a man desperate for peace as the world around him grows more and more hostile.

Lashana Lynch is quite great, too, although I wish she was given more room to operate in a film that tries to bridge Bob and Rita’s past with their present. In turn, it becomes a bunch of jumbled pieces that amount to a fragmented relationship, but the individual moments where you get to observe the two are poignant nonetheless. Lynch and Ben-Adir achieve so much in a script and narrative structure that offers them so little.

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Which is where Bob Marley: One Love ultimately faulters under the weight of its own ambition. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green (who achieved much better results with King Richard and whose becoming this generations keeper of the paint-by-numbers biopic) brings a script to life that his little interest in building emotions through its writing and characters. All emotional ques in One Love are brought out by Bob Marley needle drops that tie two different scenes together. No Woman No Cry is featured prominently as an example of this, and it gets obvious and derivative after the first two times it happens.

And ultimately, the script for One Love just doesn’t feel interested in unpacking any big moments in Bob Marley’s life. There are glimpses of it, but One Love pulls back the reigns right as it’s on the verge of making sense of his singular worldview. The movie begins with four different cards with captions explaining the historical context of Bob Marley: One Love and ends with another three. The movie doesn’t seem bothered by not showing these events and instead lives off the good times and wholesome vibes.

Those vibes are still kind of nice, and I still generally like Bob Marley: One Love more than some of the most uninspired musical biopics, but it pales in comparison to movies that better establish history through their central, iconic figures. Bob Marley’s life and music go hand-in-hand, and One Love is only interested in exploring the latter.


Genre: Drama, History, Musical

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Bob Marley: One Love Cast and Credits

bob marley one love movie poster


Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley

Lashana Lynch as Rita Marley

Jesse Cilio as Norval Marley

James Norton as Don Taylor

Michael Gandolfini as Howard Bloom

Micheal Ward

Tosin Cole


Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green

Writers: Frank E. FlowersTerence WinterZach Baylin

Composer: Kris Bowers

Reviews for Movies like Bob Marley: One Love (2024)