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The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

“One Love” is one step away from greatness

“One Love,” directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green is a vibrant biopic that attempts to appreciate world-famous Reggae singer Bob Marley. However, the film lacked a proper structure and ultimately missed the mark.

A man who led a global Reggae revolution and sang peace to the polarized people of Jamaica simply cannot be summed up in one hour and 45 minutes.

Appropriately released on Feb. 14, 2024, “One Love” attempts to capture the life of Bob Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and the complex layers woven into his message. This film is like a beautifully painted house, with eye-opening windows and thematic elements. However, without strong structural foundations, houses or movies like this, tend to flop.

The movie quickly throws the viewer right into the center of the action as Marley and his wife Rita (Lashana Lynch) survive a bullet wound while rehearsing their setlist for a peace concert. We then see his next two years in London creating the album “Exodus,” including famous hits like “Three Little Birds” and “Jamming.” As he records he grapples with his familial and spiritual responsibilities. There are also fragments of his past intermixed with present-day moments that can, at times, make it difficult to decipher between past and present.

While I appreciate the focus on these pivotal years in Marley’s life, it was unfulfilling to see words on the screen explaining what went on before or after this limited time frame instead of just showing it. The flashbacks and prophecy sequences of young Marley were choppy and left me with more unanswered questions rather than a better understanding of his life. There were recurring scenes of young Marley running away as a field behind him burst into flames, but there is no explanation for this or any of the other sequences.

Corners were cut. The end of the movie shows real footage of Marley uniting the two political leaders of Jamaica on stage in an act of peace, leaving me feeling robbed of having such a pinnacle moment cut out of the script and replaced with a text overlay and a short clip. Though I am never in favor of three-hour films, I think the writers could have spent more time both wrapping up and starting the movie. It felt as though they masterfully filmed the whole middle section and then forgot to film the first and last scenes.

Despite some structural failures, I definitely walked away with a greater appreciation for Marley, his music and his connection to religion. The movie beautifully highlighted the deeply rooted relationship between Rastafarian culture and Reggae music. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green sensitively steeped the film in rich religious themes that immersed the viewer into various aspects of Rastafarian beliefs, and Marley is often seen reading the scriptures to inspire his song lyrics.

The spiritual undertones were also aided by the beautiful backdrop of azure Jamaican waves crashing against the coastline. Green didn’t skimp on cinematography one cent. The vibrant colors of red, yellow and green illuminate Marley as he performs. The perspective of filming through doorways achieves an outsider’s point of view and builds tension between characters. High-definition close-ups of Marley in his moments of dissociation also work well to portray his internal struggle.

The star of this movie lies in Ben-Adir’s ability to replicate Marley’s infectious smile, worried eyes and effervescent sense of cool. Ben-Adir shakes his head vivaciously and dances on stage with the same random, yet spiritual, sense of passion that is seen in so many of Marley’s performances. His effortless embodiment of Marley made me further invested in the movie and feel like I was watching real footage from his life.

Although the movie is a biopic about Bob Marley, the portrayal of Rita Marley is arguably more dynamic than her husband’s. Rita provides us with a reality check on the superstar’s fatal flaw: stubbornness. Lynch plays a strong mother and passionate backup singer who simultaneously supports Marley while reminding him of his morals. She is patient, not passive. Lynch’s subtle changes in facial expression also add to the nuances of her character, with her eyes going from sparkling with joy to completely blank as she dutifully sings behind her husband amidst her disappointment in his evasive nature.

The movie exuded a warmth and personal touch due to the Marley family’s involvement in it. I could tell the scenes with his sons playing soccer were taken right from his eldest son, Ziggy Marley’s, memory. I also appreciated the inclusion of Marley’s flaws because they paint a more accurate picture of the famous figure. We see him stubbornly refuse medication for cancer, despite his friends and family begging him to get treatment. Marley is fittingly portrayed as multidimensional through his perfectionism in the studio and the hint at his infidelity on tour.

However, Green appears indecisive in conveying Marley’s personality. There were nods to his failure to balance the tour and his kids, but they were mostly vague and confusing. He is overwhelmingly raised to a god-like status throughout the film, so these brief interruptions of reality, while showing his complexity, felt a bit jarring and out of place.

As a Marley fan myself, I wasn’t sure what to make of the film. “One Love” is a well-styled house filled to the ceiling with masterful pieces but it doesn’t quite stand up on its own. Nevertheless, feel free to disagree because, as Marley says, “only a fool leans upon his own understanding.”

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