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Mixed views for One Love

Regional 28 Feb, 2024 Follow News

One Love is generally adored by audiences

Marley had a strong bond with his kids

Jamaicans are equally divided on the merits of the new Bob Marley biopic, causing extremes in how it is being received. 

Bob Marley: One Love was released worldwide on Valentine’s Day. Many appreciate it but a sizeable portion also hate the depiction and criticise the patois, which actually stands up well to scrutiny.

Although it has achieved a mainly positive audience score on the film assessment website Rotten Tomatoes, there has been mixed reviews from critics who feel it is not authentic enough nor covers his whole life adequately. The movie sees British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir playing the reggae legend, following the singer-songwriter’s breakthrough onto the international stage and his passion for spreading a message of peace and unity. 

It covers the last five years of his life with flashbacks to his childhood and teenage years. Lashana Lynch plays Rita, Marley’s wife brilliantly. It promised to be a faithful adaptation given the involvement of Rita and Bob’s children, Ziggy and Cedella and other family members as well as Cayman’s own accomplished filmmaker Frank E. Flowers.

The biopic’s critics score is a tepid 43% out of 141 reviews compared to the audience score of 94% based on more than 1,000 reviews. Some critics seem to have wished for a splashier tribute to Marley, while audiences generally feel it is a balanced biopic.

At least Ben-Adir’s patois, mannerisms and delivery is on point. That’s partly thanks to Jamaican linguist, Dr Joseph Farquharson, agreeing to play a consultant’s role. His major motivating factor was wanting to avoid another Cool Runnings.

The 1993 comedy about the real-life Jamaican Olympic bobsled team is a well-loved classic worldwide but has also become a cautionary tale about what happens when Hollywood attempts to “globalise” the Jamaican accent and distinct language. For Farquharson, who worked as an adviser for the One Love dialogue coach, Brett Tyne – who in turn advised Ben-Adir – the dialogue in the film needed to be authentic, era-appropriate and not slip into anything other than Jamaican patois.

Both critics and audiences may be right about the film. Marley is the kind of legend whose legacy will never quite fit in a limited run time. Additionally, a simple retelling of someone’s life may be dull or interesting, depending on who’s watching. However, most critics probably don’t realise that Marley was extraordinarily humble and may have preferred a simple tribute that spreads peace and love over one that makes a splash.  Marley died from cancer, in 1981, aged 36.

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