Bob Marley One Love review roundup: Is the reggae biopic as Legendary as the man himself?

9 February 2024, 14:27

Bob Marley - One Love – official first trailer

By Mayer Nissim

Bob Marley: One Love finally hits cinemas, but what do the critics make of it.

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We've waited a very long time for Bob Marley movie.

The epic 2012 Marley documentary was great, but a proper cinematic biopic has long been overdue.

With the blessing of the Marley estate and Kingsley Ben-Adir and Lashana Lynch in the lead roles as Bob and Rita Marley, expectations are incredibly high for the movie.

The film is released in the UK and US on Valentine's Day, but it had its world premiere in Marley's hometown of Kingston, Jamaica on January 23, 2024.

But is the film totally Jammin', or has it left fans making an Exodus from the cinema. Read on to find out what the critics are saying.

Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley in One Love
Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley in One Love. Picture: Paramount Pictures

Rolling Stone – gives us a reggae icon minus the rebel soul

Covering a transformative two-year period for the legend, this perfectly functional look at the musical legend never really catches a fire.. more likely, the main culprit is the format.

Bob Marley: One Love keeps bumping its head against the ceiling of the genre, sticking to a music biopic formula even as it gently tweaks it... the result is a perfectly functional look at a legend, one that will definitely make you want to put Exodus back into heavy playlist rotation. It’s still not enough.

The Guardian – reverential biopic of reggae superstar struggles to stir it up

Biopics don’t get more authorised or anaesthetised than this ploddingly solemn account of reggae legend Bob Marley.

A great, or good, movie could have been made about Marley’s sensational career, his musical genius, inspirational asceticism (if not quite humility) and poignant sacrificial destiny... but this is a reverent Hallmark Channel-type film... This is a vacuum-sealed package of fan-orthodoxy that never takes off. The euphoria and uplift aren’t there.

Bob Marley
Bob Marley. Picture: Getty Images

The Hollywood Reporter – Kingsley Ben-Adir and Lashana Lynch Enliven a Stunted Biopic

The actor wholly conjures Marley’s charisma while also teasing the musician’s sense of isolation, stemming from a childhood marked by abandonment.

His compelling performance enlivens a film that otherwise feels like it’s perpetually struggling to take off... Bob Marley: One Love, at the very least, reintroduces audiences to a man who spent his life trying to make the revolution irresistible

Screen Daily – an underpowered biopic

Bob Marley has long run the risk of becoming a bland totem — a heroic, groundbreaking and challenging musician reduced to an image on a poster hanging in a university dorm.

Surely, One Love wants to give this titanic figure more dimensions, showing how his art was forged in pain, bringing inspiration and respite for so many listeners. But thanks to narrative short cuts and a lack of probing curiosity, the film lionises rather than illuminates.

Bob Marley- One Love | Teaser Trailer

Deadline – biopic of the reggae icon doesn’t Catch A Fire

For 15 minutes or so, Bob Marley: One Love promises to be an antidote to the usual cookie-cutter music biopic... gradually, though, the realization dawns that we’re being sold a pup.

As Led Zeppelin might say, the song remains the same... just like the music industry, its makers still don’t quite know how to deal with Bob Marley, a genuine original, a true rebel poet, a Che Guevara on the downbeat.

Variety – a music biopic that's anything but revolutionary

Too often, One Love feels like the downbeat, neurotic middle act of a conventional biopic — the hero lost in his identity crisis, hemmed in by fame — stretched out to feature length.

The film tells you a lot about Bob Marley, yet it never quite figures out what his journey is... the point of the new biopic mode was to reveal totemic figures in a more complex way. One Love flirts with complexity but slides into the banality of hero worship.

Watch the trailer for Get Up Stand Up - the Bob Marley Musical

The Times – this biopic doesn’t stir it up enough

The musical biopic bandwagon rolls lethargically on with this alarmingly incurious portrait of Bob Marley...

It’s a series of flimsy vignettes loosely held together by a greatest hits recap (all Marley vocals) and some unlikely expository dialogue (“Me want to reach everyone with this next record!”).

The Daily Telegraph – a brilliant Kingsley Ben-Adir outclasses this predictable biopic

Ben-Adir brings the reggae icon to life in a gorgeous performance, but is let down by a film that lacks originality and oomph... It’s a gorgeous performance overall – his Marley is so alive to the potential of music as both an art form and cause, it’s as if you can see the creative energy flowing up from the earth through his legs to the tips of his fingers and dreadlocks.

In a richer or more rousing film, the 37-year-old’s work here might have been talked about for awards. In this one, it’s reason enough to watch.

Bob Marley & The Wailers - One Love / People Get Ready (Official Music Video)

The Independent – yet another watered-down celebrity biopic

British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir is certainly magnetic in the role of the reggae icon, but there is almost too much control to his performance – and no sense of a musician becoming lost and liberated in his music.

Marley... is presented as a centrifugal force in Jamaican art, culture and political thought, but the film also threatens to flatten him into just another tortured male genius.

Metro – Kingsley Ben-Adir is a beautifully faultless Bob Marley

Bob Marley: One Love struggles to stick its landing, despite the wealth of material on offer.

It does, however, boast a sensational turn from star Kingsley Ben-Adir, the little glimpses of whose performance in the trailers do it zero justice without the full, rich context.

AV Club – Legendary artist's life and legacy deserve better

History intertwined with the creative process should make for a riveting story. Unfortunately director Reinaldo Marcus Green, along with his co-screenwriters Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers and Zach Baylin, waste this opportunity and Marley’s legacy with a rather limp story full of cliches and perplexing choices.

Watch the official trailer for Marley

Little White Lies – a low-calorie music bio

They really should’ve called this one Redemption Song in that it’s a film that works double-time to file down and buff the rough edges of the late roots-reggae sage, Bob Marley.

Reinaldo Marcus Green’s follow-up to his likeable award season fixture, King Richard, is hagiography 101, with the majority of its focus trained on the fruits of its charismatic subject’s creative genius and with zero interest in getting to the juicy particulars of his legend status.

HeyUGuys – a perfectly serviceable biopic

Bob Marley: One Love often feels like a by numbers affair, but this isn’t to say that the film isn’t at the same time hugely compelling.

There are some genuinely thrilling performances here from Lynch and Ben-Adir, while the original soundtrack packed with Marley’s most loved songs add a certain effervescence to the proceedings.