Plagued by a clumsy script, the Bob Marley biopic often falls flat, despite the music.

It’s no easy task to recount the life of a figure as revered as the prophet of reggae. After subtly portraying the controversial Richard Williams, father of tennis champions Serena and Venus, in King Richard three years earlier, director Reinaldo Marcus Green seemed capable of delivering a nuanced account of the rise of Bob Marley, a world star from one of the world’s poorest and most violent ghettos.

But the project, headed up by the Marley family with Rita and Ziggy as executive producers, seems to have been smoothed over at every stage, ending up with the feeling of watching a kind of anthology of Bob’s career, with different episodes of his life piled on top of each other with no real connection to one another.

Bob Marley: One Love - Official Trailer (2024 Movie)

Paramount Pictures

The film begins in December 1976, amidst a Jamaica plunged into a bloody electoral campaign between two parties and their gangs. Bob Marley, then at the height of his glory, narrowly escapes assassination at home, a consequence of his political neutrality. We then follow his time exiled in London, where he records Exodus, his most popular album. But the studio scenes, despite a rather credible Kingsley Ben-Adir, lack punch, with uninspired dialogue. Fortunately, there is the music...

Above all, the film, which essentially revolves around the relationship between Bob and Rita, lacks any real stakes. The only standout characteristic that is identified in the long term is Bob Marley’s “worldly drift”, which Rita (played by Lashana Lynch) does not fail to remind him of during a shouting match in Paris after a cocktail party. The director also leaves us wanting more after teasing Bob’s long-awaited tour of Africa, of which we only see archive footage in an anticlimactic ending.

There were undoubtedly too many constraints and obligatory passages to build something more ambitious with this film. Yet Marley’s career - a man who lived in extreme poverty but always believed in his destiny, an artist who tried out tons of projects in the 60s with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, who are all but forgotten in the film - is full of incredible stories (and dark sides) to tell. And when you think of works like Reign Supreme (Le Monde de demain) about NTM or Bohemian Rhapsody about Queen, there was still much more that could’ve been done...