In recent decades, the Hollywood biographical drama has undergone a remarkable evolution, shedding its once cheesy reputation to become a respected art form. This transformation began with films like “Capote” and “Lincoln” and continued through works such as “Oppenheimer,” which abandoned the traditional cradle-to-grave narrative in favor of focusing on pivotal moments in a subject’s life. This shift has allowed for a deeper exploration of character and authenticity.
“Bob Marley: One Love” fervently adheres to these new biopic conventions. The film centers on the iconic reggae superstar during a critical period of his life, opening in 1976 as Marley (portrayed by Kingsley Ben-Adir) prepares for a peace concert in Kingston amidst Jamaica’s turbulent political landscape. Despite his efforts to promote unity, violence lurks close, culminating in a harrowing attack on Marley and his wife, Rita (played by Lashana Lynch). The incident prompts Marley to reassess his situation and eventually leads him to relocate to London.
Set over the following two years, the film follows Marley’s experiences in London as he navigates the challenges of fame, reunites with his band, and records the seminal album “Exodus.” While the period offers fertile ground for exploration, the film falls short in fully capturing the essence of Marley’s rise to prominence in Jamaica and the evolution of reggae as an art form. Flashbacks provide glimpses into Marley’s early days, but the absence of a more comprehensive portrayal is disappointing.
Despite its shortcomings, Kingsley Ben-Adir delivers a captivating performance as Marley, embodying the musician’s charisma and spirit. However, the film’s narrative structure feels disjointed, meandering through various aspects of Marley’s life without a cohesive focus. While it touches on topics such as Marley’s passion for soccer and his indifference to his health after a cancer diagnosis, it struggles to provide meaningful depth.
Ultimately, “One Love” falls short of fully realizing its potential, presenting a somewhat superficial depiction of Marley’s journey. While it offers moments of insight and emotional resonance, it ultimately succumbs to the pitfalls of hero worship, failing to capture the complexity of its iconic subject.