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Peace, Love, and Reggae

Bob Marley, the renowned Jamaican reggae singer, has stolen our hearts through Kingsley Ben-Adir’s portrayal of him in Bob Marley: One Love. The film is a beautiful journey through the most turbulent and meaningful part of Marley’s life, his world tour and peak fame. The film is intimate. It gets to the crux of what it means to be human and what it means to be alive. It is truly a story of hope. 

Born Robert Nesta Marley, Bob Marley was born in Nine Mile, Jamaica, to a white father and a black mother. Rather than chronologically following Marley from birth to death, the film focuses on two pivotal years while he was exiled in London and began his world tour. The film begins with his plans for a concert calling for peace during a politically turbulent time in Jamaica and shows the complications in making this event a reality. Marley is confident in his decision to organize the peace concert and believes that nothing can stand in his way. The government will have to listen because there needs to be peace. 

A highlight of the film is the emotional range and nuance in Ben-Adir’s portrayal of Bob Marley. His facial expressions captivate the audience as Marley’s resolve about his mission to call for peace wavers after a shooting leaves his wife, Rita Marley, in the hospital the night before the concert. He thought he was untouchable, but he quickly realized that his peace concert had placed a large target on his back. More bullets will be fired, and now they will be directed towards him and his allies. He sends his wife and children to live with his mother in Delaware, and escapes to London, where he writes his magical album Exodus and sets off on his world tour. 

Throughout the film, the characters speak English with a heavy Jamaican accent, and deciphering what they are saying (especially if you are unfamiliar with the accent) can be difficult. But, this accent was essential for furthering the film’s purpose. We are cast into Bob Marley’s world, whether we understand it or not. The film encourages viewers to expand their knowledge of other dialects and cultures through dialogue, especially those of the Global South. 

Image Credit: Variety

Another facet of Marley’s life explored in the film is his connection with Rastafariansim, which left a large imprint on him and provided him with a close community. Rastafarianism is an Abrahamic religion developed in Jamaica in the 1930s among the poor and disenfranchised as a response to British colonialism. Rastafari beliefs reject ideas of a white God ruling over them and instead revere Jah, who is their black God. Marley comes to Rastafarianism through his wife, Rita. One of the film’s most touching scenes is when he joins the Rastafarians around a fire and listens to them preach, learning about the collective self. Being mixed race and not having known his father well, it is clear that he felt out of place in Jamaica. In that scene, Marley’s eyes glow as he listens to and absorbs what they tell him. There is no need to seek the white man’s validation, for there is Jah who loves every one of us. He finds a place of belonging through Rastafarianism, and almost all his songs incorporate Rastafarian philosophy. The scene, in particular, is memorable because it humanizes a people so dehumanized; much of the Western world’s knowledge of the Global South is limited to descriptions of exploitation and leaves out the growth of communities of resistance like the Rastafari. It is the most explicit scene in any movie I have ever watched that screams that black is beautiful. 

Although the film provides a look into Marley’s complexities, Bob Marley: One Love is not a critique of Marley’s character, though many believe it should have been. Through his work and music, he undeniably touched countless lives. The movie does justice to Marley's tremendous impact on the world, yet glorifies him as an infallible hero. It glosses over his flaws, like his marital infidelity and the fact that he opted to go to high-society parties rather than focus on carrying out his intentions with his world tour. While the lack of criticism about Marley has drawn attention, the film’s crafting of Marley’s life shows us what our society needs to see: the value of love, forgiveness, and hope amidst terror and fighting. Through his music and religion, Marley brought together Jamaica's two largest opposing political parties. He spread love and kindness, carrying what he felt was a divine message of world peace. Marley’s story is a hopeful one, a testament to the beauty of humanity. We need stories of peace and love, real love, in our world today more than ever.



Lara Muyombwe is an undeclared freshman in the College. Fun fact: she's recently been racking up hours on Persona 5: Royal (end of week 2: 33 hours).


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