‘Bob Marley: One Love’ Explores the Icon’s Pivotal Years in this New Emotional Musical biopic

14 February 2024 / by Nicole. Soroka
‘Bob Marley: One Love’ Explores the Icon’s Pivotal Years in this New Emotional Musical biopic
Filmmakers Reinaldo Marcus Green and Ziggy Marley share their feelings about crafting this beautiful story with a Toronto audience.

For decades, Bob Marley has been seen as one of the leading trailblazers for reggae music. His legendary career has left a lasting impression on many generations, and his songs stand as a reminder of his fight for peace and unity. Marley’s rise to international fame was not a steady road, and the icon was dealt a handful of trials and tribulations throughout his life. 


Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, Bob Marley: One Love stars Kingsley Ben-Adir as the title character, Lashana Lynch and James Norton. The film is produced by a number of Marley’s own family members, including Ziggy, Rita and Cedella Marley, ensuring that this musical biopic narrates an accurate portrayal of Bob Marley’s life. 


Filmed throughout late 2022 to April 2023, this film was primarily shot in locations throughout Jamaica in order to stay true to the places where Marley lived and performed. 


Bob Marley: One Love follows the timeline of Marley’s life just days prior to the Smile Jamaica Concert in 1976. After the assassination attempt on Marley’s life in his own home, he and his family moved away from the country, where he ultimately landed in London, England. This film takes viewers into the emotional side of creating his smash album Exodus and shows the strains that his relationships with his wife, Rita, and his bandmates faced during a time of uncertainty.  


The film first premiered on January 23, 2024 in Kingston, Jamaica, the town where Marley was raised, just weeks ahead of its public theatrical release date on February 14. Bob Marley: One Love has received a 35 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes ahead of its release. Many reviewers have expressed their disappointment with the tight focus on merely two years of Marley’s life, instead of showcasing how he first became a household name.


“By limiting itself to the period of 1976-1978, the film shows us almost nothing of how Marley rose up in Jamaica and helped to forge the inside-out-rock-‘n’-roll form of reggae, building on its roots in ska and rocksteady and R&B,” said Owen Gleiberman with Variety


Recognizing these critiques, the filmmakers have expressed their reasoning for focusing on such a specific time within Marley’s career. 


During a Q&A session at the Canadian premiere of Bob Marley: One Love in Toronto, both Green and Z. Marley were present to talk about the making of the film. Moderator, Cameron Bailey, posed the question as to what type of discussions Green, Z. Marley and the rest of their team had while crafting the project and how they landed on their storyline. 


“We were never interested in doing a cradle-to-grave,” said Green. “It’s just too much life to pack in, in such a short amount of time… [1976] was just so rich in creation, also what was happening personally and professionally for him at that time, there was just so much to unpack with the creation of [Exodus], the touring for that album, and his return to Jamaica for the One Love Peace Concert.” 


Another hot topic within the media is the decision to cast Kingsley as Marley. During the Q&A, Green and Z. Marley explained that they searched for the perfect actor to portray their title character for just over a year. While they searched all over the world, Kingsley’s tape “moved us, it intrigued us, it held our attention,” said Green. “He was magnetic, intelligent, charismatic, he had good presence, and it was very confident.”


Marley continued to explain what he told Kingsley in preparation for his role and how he was shaped into playing Marley.


“Bob never walked up the stairs one step at a time, take two steps,” said Marley. “So when you go up the stairs, make sure you take two steps, right? But I think the most important thing with Kingsley was being around [the Marley’s] and being around our energy… a Jamaican cast surrounded Kingsley so he was immersed in that culture on set all the time.”


Throughout the film, there is a recurring scene that symbolizes a certain type of growth within Marley, one that connects to the spiritual visions he had. When Bailey asked Z. Marley to elaborate on what type of visions his father said he had, he had a thorough response for the audience. 


“Everybody has dreams,” said Z. Marley. “But we listen, we believe in our guiding force that speaks to us sometimes through dreams, through visions. So we accept that. Bob was a visionary.” 


While Z. Marley is a producer for Bob Marley: One Love, he is also the eldest son of the beloved artist. He shares a deeper connection with the film and the story that they are sharing with the world. Z. Marley told the audience that he hopes they take away a bigger meaning than the image of Bob Marley himself. 


“Every corner of Earth needs a message of one love,” said Z. Marley. “…I think that’s the most important thing about this film. We’re not just promoting a movie or a story about Bob, but we’re promoting a message, we’re promoting a consciousness, and this couldn’t be a Bob Marley movie without that.”