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We Watched Bob Marley: One Love, and Here Is Our Take

An undeniable truth in both the movie and real life is the message of peace, love, and redemption, and that is what Marley and The Wailers were fighting for.

From the beginning of Marley's life on the plantations of Jamaica to the discovery of a new life in the Rastafari culture and values, the new biopic of Bob Marley’s life is a must-watch for all of his fans and reggae enthusiasts all over the world.

The movie shows us a new side of not only Marley's life through Jamaica and his world tours, but also a look into the lives of those who surrounded and supported him through his musical career and life.

Did Marley really serve as a symbol of hope to the people of Jamaica? What were the events that encouraged him to change his songs from peace hymns to revolutionary calls? Did he manage to accomplish his proclamations of peace and unity? Keep reading our movie review to find out!

Note: Before you keep scrolling, please keep in mind that you may find some spoilers from the film.

Before we begin, we want to emphasize some important points and differences between the real-life conflicts between Marley and the movie.

Marley’s Childhood and the Influence of His Father on His Music

Cedella Booker and Norval Marley met on a plantation in Jamaica and were married only for a brief period of time until they parted ways after Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley was born. At the age of 10, his father passed away, leaving Bob and his mother alone in a vulnerable situation. This is portrayed at the beginning of the movie, and in reality, he was not so close to his father, as he didn’t stay long to see his son grow up.

Due to his absence, Bob had trouble being accepted as a kid due to his father’s race. In an interview with Karl Dallas in 1975, Marley was questioned about whether his songs “had a message for White people or only the Black," and his answer delved into his childhood experiences, revealing details about his upbringing and how they shaped his perspective and music.

"Because my father's white, my mother's black. You know what they call me—half-caste or whatever. Well, me don't dip on nobody's side; me don't dip on the black man's side nor the white man's side; me dip on God's side, the man who created me, who caused me to come from black and white, who gave me this talent. Prejudice is a chain; it can hold you. If you're prejudiced, you can't move; you keep prejudice for years. Never get nowhere with that."

This part of Marley’s life was perfectly executed in the movie, since it’s the opening sequence and the thread for the later events that developed throughout the story. We can also hear the first introduction of the “Redemption Song” in a slight lullaby reflecting the feelings of his family at the time.

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The Night Bob Marley was Shot and the Redemption of His Shooter

Jamaica’s political violence and escalation to civil war were one of the many factors that inspired Marley to hold the Smile Jamaica concert as a symbol of peace and unity in response to the chaotic violence that took place in the lead-up to the 1976 election in Jamaica. According to The Medium, rival political factions were warring on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, with only Bob Marley calling for peace.

On the night of December 3,1976, just two days before the Smile Jamaica concert, seven armed men raided the residence of Marley in Kingston, shooting Marley in his chest and arm, as well as his wife Rita in the head, who was parked in the driveway. The other two people affected were his manager, Don Taylor, who was shot in the legs and torso, and his band employee, Louis Griffith, who took a bullet to his torso. Fortunately there were no casualties from this attempt.

Later in the movie, we can see that Marley encountered his shooter and forgave him for what he did. This scene was actually an artistic liberty that was added to reflect the personal growth of Bob’s character throughout the movie. In real life, he never actually met his shooter. According to People Magazine, Marley said in an undated video interview that while he never saw the gunman himself during the assassination attempt, he was familiar with the person who attempted to take his life.

Marley and the Wailers in London, and his connection to the Rastafarian culture

During the time he spent in London with The Wailers, the group was arrested on March 10,1977, for the possession of "ganja." However, as shown in the movie, this was largely exaggerated by the media since reporters did not understand or try to investigate what this practice really meant for the Rastafarians.

Bob was once quoted: “When you smoke herb, herb reveal yourself to you.” “All the wickedness you do, the herb reveal itself to yourself, your conscience, show up yourself clear, because herb make you meditate. Is only a natural t’ing and it grow like a tree.”

It is important to recall that for Rastafarian culture, smoking is a special experience to help enlighten their mind so they can correctly reason about the ways of the world in a ritual way. After all, many of Bob Marley's songs, such as “Redemption Song,” “One Love,” “Exodus,” and “Africa Unite,” express his strong beliefs for the culture, as he views Rastafarianism not just as a spiritual belief system but also as a way of life and a lived reality.

Bob’s Treatment for Cancer and Response

Bob Marley regularly enjoyed playing soccer, so injuries from this were really common. In the movie, we see that he was diagnosed with melanoma because a wound he had on his toe was not healing. After hearing the news, Bob refused to get treatment for cancer.

In reality, he had his nail and nail bed removed where the acral melanoma was found, replacing his skin from his thighs. According to the AIM at the Melanoma Foundationhe did not undergo routine follow-up treatments, but at the time, there was not much treatment to be offered.

While chemotherapy was available at the time, it was not effective against this type of melanoma. Even after being treated at multiple clinics specializing in cancer, including the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the treatment didn’t work, but he did receive radiation therapy in the hopes of shrinking tumors in his lungs and liver. His death was most likely attributed to the damage the metastasized cancer did to his vital organs—specifically his liver and lungs.

Seeking Peace Through Music

An undeniable truth in both the movie and real life is the message of peace, love, and redemption, and that is what Marley and The Wailers were fighting for. After his return to Jamaica on April 22,1978, Marley united numerous political groups as a symbol of unity at the “One Love Peace Concert," which attracted more than 32,000 spectators, with the proceeds of the show going towards "much-needed sanitary facilities and housing for the sufferers in West Kingston."

Is the movie worth it? Here are three points to consider:

What we loved:

In our opinion, the color palette of the movie portrayed in the first minutes, where Marley, Rita, and their kids play on the beach in Kingston, gives you the feeling of a loving family.

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The movie colors adapt from warm to neutral to blue tones when tragedy strikes. You can feel that the warmest tones, like yellow, brown, green, and red, are used in Bob’s youth and come back when he is with his family in the final scene, as well as when he comes back home.

While in London, you can see more neutral tones that give us a sense of distance and coldness, in contrast to what we used to see at the beginning of the movie. This is a tool in color theory to represent a change in the tone and atmosphere of the movie, as well as the pacing, and is another type of language that we found interesting.

The audio production is another one of the distinguished thumbs up for this movie, and while the actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, who depicted Marley, did not actually sing for the movie, the lip-synching seemed so natural that it made us wonder where they got such a clean vocal track for the band rehearsal scenes.

In reality, and according to ScreenrantBen-Adir actually learned how to sing and play the guitar. While shooting the performance sequences in the movie, the actor performed all the songs himself, using his real singing voice on set. The result was a combination of Ben-Adir's raw vocals and Marley's archived recordings. One example of his singing skills can be heard in the movie, with “Turn Your Lights Down Low," an acoustic version of the song to Rita after she surprises him in London.

Additionally, there were important moments where other artists played parts in the movie, such as Ziggy Marley in "Jamming," which has a cover of the song played in the movie, and then his father's version of the song is played in a scene where Bob plays soccer and during studio sessions. Listening to Ziggy Marley also brought us a lot of memories, since we had the chance several years ago to record him along with the PFC Band in one of our Live Outside performances.

Click here to watch the exclusive version of "Redemption Song" with Ziggy Marley and the PFC Band.

We were also surprised to learn that, in the beginning of the "Redemption Song," Angelique Kidjo hums a portion of the song, as we had the opportunity to record her for one of our famous Songs Around The World, "Biko.”

And last but not least, we cannot leave behind the emotional aspects of the movie in some scenes. For example, the movie’s climax takes place right after a big fight between Bob and Rita in London, followed by flashbacks of their youth, where they first fell in love. All of this was Bob’s thinking while performing “No Woman, No Cry” at a concert.

Did you know that the PFC Band played this song for the Playing for Change Foundation music program in Diamante, Argentina?

What we missed:

The “Trenchtown Rock” and “Tuff Gong”

In the movie, we can see a combination of time jumps; the young versions of Bob and Rita speak about his father and show us a little bit about their first encounters with the Rastafarian culture. However, we don’t get much background about his settlement in Trench Town, where he got along (but was not an active part) with the local street gangs known as “rude boys." We would’ve loved to see more about the struggles in this part of his life, but unfortunately, the movie shows us just a glimpse of what could’ve happened as it leaves it to interpretation.

A Tutor for the Youth in Kingston: The Influence of Joe Higgs

A singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Higgs was well known for opening his doors to anyone who wished to learn for free. They say that Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer were his most outstanding students. According to Grungehe taught them the basics of singing and songwriting, but when Marley and The Wailers began to experience success, he refused to keep on playing with them, probably because of his strong beliefs, as he was actually a protest singer. However, he agreed to play with them in the late ‘70s on a tour in the U.S.

What we take:

Like any other biopic, one of the big challenges for creating a film that encapsulates the full life and trajectory of an artist is screen time. For example, Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of Freddy Mercury and the formation of Queen in approximately 2 hours and 12 minutes. One Love has a total watch time of 1 hour and 47 seconds, leaving some aspects behind, like his struggles during his final days and how he lived with his family members (specifically his sons and daughters), as well as many additional details that a true Marley fan or any other person who is new to Bob Marley’s life would’ve found vital and interesting to engage fully in the story. Another example of this is the biographical film dedicated to the life of Bob Dylan, I’m Not There, which lacks a few details and takes a brief 2 hours and 15 minutes of watch time. We can also find a similar length with movies such as Rocketman, inspired by the life of Elton John, or Elvis with a length of 2 hours and 32 minutes.

While it is challenging to tell the full life story of a person in detail with only one movie, we would’ve loved to take a deeper look into Bob’s childhood and his youth while living in Trench Town, as well as a few more takes while being a father in Jamaica and how he spent his time learning how to play the guitar and write songs. Maybe a two-hour-long movie would’ve been really interesting to see, since, in our opinion, it would have made its way into the hearts of people who are not very familiar with Bob Marley’s past.

In conclusion, if you are a fan of Marley or you like biopic films, this one is a perfect start to his life, and even if it leaves you with a lot of questions, it encourages the audience to investigate and read more about his life. If you ask us, we loved the message it carried, specially one line by Rita Marley:

“Sometimes….. The messenger has to become the message.”

By following our mission inspired by Marley’s message of unity, peace, love, and forgiveness, we have managed to record numerous songs with the support of our followers, who make our work possible by lending us a hand in reaching out to faraway places full of extraordinary people with their own music histories. Our goal, to this day, is to connect the world through music, crossing barriers around the world in the hopes of bringing unity among the people. This is what we take from Bob Marley, and we hope that his speech inspires you to create your own way and find your own message to spread with the leading hand of hope and peace.

Listen to the original soundtrack here:

Have you watched the movie yet? If so, what are your thoughts? Let us know in our comment section below, and if you liked it, let us know your favorite part! Don’t forget to share this article on social media.