Stoner Movie Review: Kingsley Ben-Adir in 'Bob Marley: One Love'

Kingsley Ben-Adir is Bob Marley in "Bob Marley: One Love."

Reinaldo Marcus Green's Bob Marley: One Love biopic is sandwiched around two major events: The shooting of Bob Marley, his wife Rita and manager Don Taylor in 1976 and the One Love Peace Concert in 1978 where Marley united Jamaica's political leaders on stage.

By this time in Marley's career he was now the leader of the Wailers, with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer separated from the group. Flashbacks remind us of Bob's upbringing, the young singer/guitarist with a modest Afro and no dreads prior to his conversion to Rastafari. His white Jamaican father Norval rides in and out of the picture on a horse and, in a late scene, revered Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie gives Bob the Lion of Judah ring. He was the chosen one.

Smoke a spliff and go see this important stoner film. 

As a rising star, Bob (Kingsley Ben-Adir) has few worries. He has a tight band, a great record label (Island, headed by Chris Blackwell, played convincingly by James Norton), wife Rita (Lashana Lynch) and several children. But the shooting changes everything. Bob leaves for London and Rita moves to Delaware with the kids; he doesn't return to Jamaica until 1978. During this time, Bob has other relationships and children, souring his marriage. But the music flows. Bob conceives Exodus and it's recorded in England. The group tours Europe to increasing acclaim.

Another foreboding aspect of the film is a foot injury Bob sustains playing soccer, his favorite pastime. The toe gets worse and Bob refuses to see a doctor. Eventually cancer would spread throughout his body. Bob only lived to 36, dying in 1981.

This deep dive into the world of Marley offers many lessons about Rasta life (which includes constant ganja smoking), connecting messages to music (to Bob, they were inseparable) and bringing to a beleaguered planet songs of hope and freedom. The music and performances stand out with Ben-Adir singing all the Bob parts. The making of the song "Exodus" is a blast, the band members playing along as Bob freestyles the lyrics. In concert, Ben-Adir swirls his dreads and spins like a dervish, egging on ecstatic crowds.

We often see Bob by himself reading books; he was a quiet seeker of knowledgee. But life around him was a struggle. After a concert in Paris, he and Rita argue about infidelity (she slaps him) and then Bob uncharacteristically beats up Taylor, who he believes is stealing money from him. Lynch has the unenviable job of playing the disconsolate wife.

The rest of the cast is secondary to the leads, though band members like guitarist Junior Marvin (played by his son Davo Kerr) offer insights into the blend of musical styles that created reggae in the first place and helped expand that sound with rock flourishes in the '70s, thanks to Marley and Blackwell's visions of reaching a wider audience.

A labor of love, Bob Marley: One Love (co-produced by Ziggy Marley, who appears as a youngster), should be seen in theaters with powerful sound systems. The soundtrack is Bob's greatest hits. Smoke a spliff and go see this important stoner film. 



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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.