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Home African Caribbean Tony Kelly’s Review of Bob Marley Movie: One Love

Tony Kelly’s Review of Bob Marley Movie: One Love

by Tony Kelly
4 comments

Freelance Contributor, Tony Kelly

One would have to be hiding under a rock if this movie has not come to your attention  in some way having  been out on  general release from 14th February, Valentine’s Day which is meant to be about love/romance.  Of course, the world premiere was in the famous Carib Theatre  at Cross Roads, Kingston where I regularly saw films during my days of studying at Mico Teachers College back in the  seventies and continued to do so whilst teaching in high schools in Kingston  after graduation.

My wife and I saw it recently in Birmingham to an audience of only about ten people which  I found disappointing unless most have  already seen this bio-pic, are still waiting to see it or decided not to do so. On returning home I  checked on the internet how this musical bio-pic  has done  globally and discovered that it has generated $101.1 million dollars including $61.4 million in North America  and $39.7 million from 59 international territories with two weeks so far at the top of the US box office. That is pleasing to read and I expect these figures to increase as more cinemagoers see it in the forthcoming days and weeks.

So much has been written about this movie in terms of what nationality should the main actors have been, the Jamaican accent, the story line and whether certain individuals should have had more prominent roles. I am going to stay out of those ongoing debates.  However, I must say that although Bob Marley died at the age of 36 there is no way everything about him and his life could be packed into  a film lasting approximately one hour and forty-seven minutes.

Having grown up in Jamaica until migration in 1979 the historical components of this film resonated with me as I was quite familiar with those aspects of the story line such as the political divisions,  the violence amongst various factions within the two parties and  the attempted assassination of Bob, his wife Rita and others at their home on Hope Road which is now a museum. I vividly remember hearing the news on one of the radio stations.

I recall whilst living in Havendale, Kingston attending the One Love Peace concert on 22nd April  1978 at the National Stadium  which was meant to be a reunification from all the political strife affecting especially sections of Kingston the capital. The air was full of the distinct scent of the ganja smoke as it wafted away in the section that I was seated and having to inhale it as a non-smoker I was ‘high’.

The climax of that event was having Michael Manley, leader of the People’s National Party (PNP) and Edward Seaga, leader of  the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) clutching their raised  hands with  Bob Marley in the middle as a sign of unity. That remains an iconic moment and is indelibly etched in my memory bank. It was good to see such a poignant moment included in the film.

Prior to that, in December 1976 Bob Marley was to be the headline act at the National Heroes Park in Kingston in an open-air concert and whilst I was in attendance it became a no-show as gunmen just days before had stormed his home and tried to kill him which meant him leaving the country to England for his own safety. It was felt by supporters of the political parties that  the planned concert in the midst of a snap general election was not bipartisan.

I have never heard the true explanation for Bob Marley’s hit song Coming in from the cold but stand to be corrected as I always thought it was in reference to his sojourn in cold, wet and damp England. Interestingly he seemed to have written his best songs whilst abroad and as a Bob Marley fan I went to one of his performances in Stafford and with his backing singers the I Threes he certainly delivered.

At times the acting  in the film brought out some truly emotional scenes and not wishing to spoil it for those who have not yet seen it, there are a few tear-jerking moments when a lump came to my throat and I welled up. It might not happen to those who were not around during that era as one  experiences the rawness captured on screen.  This is a real history lesson for those who are unfamiliar with some of the history of Bob Marley and the politics of the time in Jamaica.

My take on the film is simply I loved it as memories came flooding back. Of course, the reggae music and even the slower paced songs are full of pathos, meaning and a poignant message. Knowing  all but one of the songs  added to that sense of belonging as was feeling the vibes being delivered before my very eyes and ears. Bob Marley’s music has stood the test of time and his creative genius as a songwriter can never be in dispute. All the actors played their roles with aplomb but  Bob and Rita were excellently portrayed and as a judge of brilliant acting they were both superb. I thought the way they mastered the Jamaican accent was well done and I am so pleased that there were no subtitles as that would have been patronizing.

The cinematography was very good but I have to say that for those who have seen the cinematography from the 1972 Jamaican film The Harder They Come,  so over 50 years ago with less sophisticated recording cameras then, that to this day was in a different league as it was absolutely astounding.

Not everyone is going to give the thumbs up to this film as there will be pros and cons through each person’s eyes and thinking process but I would encourage others to put aside the negativity that has been seen on social media and go and make up your own mind. I will reiterate that if you were around in that era and actually living in Jamaica back in the seventies  it will have a deeper sense of purpose and meaning for you. It is worth seeing on the big screen instead of later on Blu Ray or DVD as that won’t be the same.

My final verdict is that Bob Marley: One Love lived up to my expectations and ranks with my other all-time top three Jamaican films one of which I have previously mentioned and Smile Orange.  So, for me it definitely ticks all the right boxes.

Tony Kelly

Tony Kelly

London born Tony Kelly of Jamaican parents grew up in Jamaica and returned to live in Birmingham in 1979.
He is a graduate of Mico Teachers’ College and taught in Kingston high schools prior to working for 30+ years as a middle manager in central and local government with an emphasis on equity, equality, diversity and inclusion. He has a masters’ degree in socio-legal studies from the university of Birmingham.
For over a decade Tony has volunteered as a diabetes ambassador firstly for Diabetes UK and now for the National Health Service – Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group. A multi-award winner doing a yearly average of 150 health and well-being events, locally, nationally and internationally focusing on type 2 diabetes. He was diagnosed with this medical condition 18 years ago. However with a combination of physical activity and diet he has never taken medication thus proving with the right mindset and discipline it can be achieved.
As a diabetes advocate/activist Tony will continue delivering the message of healthy options to readers of CaribDirect.com .

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4 comments

Tony Kelly March 5, 2024 - 8:42 am

Thanks Inderbir. That is much appreciated.

Reply
Tony Kelly March 7, 2024 - 8:34 pm

Thanks Rosina.

Reply
Rosina Christina Moder March 3, 2024 - 1:31 pm

Thank you sincerely dear Tony Kelly for your positive and priceless review as a creative individual who has personally experienced the tragic circumstances of the political uproar here in Jamaica in the 1970ties. I am an Austrian musician, having made Kingston my home and saw the film with my family last week. I felt very good how aside of the historic account, the Jamaican lifestyle was portrayed, and the more than ever timely call for PEACE AND UNITY left as the most important message! The acting is superb and I wish an Oscar nomination for Kingsley Ben-Adir.

Reply
Inderbir Kaur February 25, 2024 - 8:35 am

Excellent review, it is nice to read from someone who recalls the historic events of such a lagend as Bob Marley.

I enjoyed reading the review. So much meterial gets presented to read these days, there is not enough time to do justice to many worthwhile contributions but I try to take the time to read Mr. Kelly’ contributions.
Thank you . All the best keep up the good work.

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