‘One Love: The Bob Marley Movie’ Review, Controversy, & Discussion

By Sariah Lake

For people in the Caribbean, the idea of a Bob Marley movie has elicited mixed reactions. Some were buzzing with enthusiasm, seeing it as an opportunity for a Jamaican story to be told in the mainstream. Others saw it as selling out to Western ideals and contradictory to Bob Marley’s anti-consumerism approach to music. However one might have felt, all of these feelings were united under curiosity and intrigue for what the movie would be like.


As buzz and excitement built up for the premiere, people itched to know who would be cast in the pivotal role of Bob Marley himself. It was soon announced that Kingsley Ben-Adir a British actor of Trinidadian descent would be cast. People everywhere were surprised, with many seeing it as an oversight for an opportunity to cast a Jamaican actor. However, Ziggy Marley, son of Bob Marley and producer of the film, defended the casting decision. Many believe he should’ve cast a family member with the most popular fan choices being Ky-mani Marley, brother to Ziggy, or Skip Marley, his nephew.

However, much less fan attention is given to younger Bob Marley who is revealed to the audience through flashbacks and is portrayed by Nolan Collignon. 

Kingsley Ben-Adir compared to Bob Marley

The other casting choice heavily awaited by viewers was that of Rita Marley, wife to Bob Marley. The team decided on Lashawna Lynch, a British actress of Jamaican descent. 

Production & Direction

Ziggy Marley partnered with American director, Reinaldo Marcus Green to bring his father’s story to big screens. Some praise him for his decision while others call him a sell-out due to the lack of acting opportunities created for Jamaican actors in the main cast. There is also some criticism towards omitted details of Bob Marley’s life such as the breaking up of the Wailers, his childhood (alluded to briefly), and his extramarital affairs, particularly his relationship with Cindy Breakspeare (alluded to briefly as well). However, the movie covers a period of the artist’s life, focused on the attempt on his life and subsequent time in England before his return to Jamaica. More of his story is unlocked through flashbacks, where Nolan Collignon takes over and shows his struggles with his absent father, introduction to Rastafarianism, and budding relationship with Rita.

Cultural Representation & Patois

A great concern of every Caribbean person (myself included) going into this movie was the representation of the Jamaican accent and use of patois. Time and time again, Hollywood has butchered Caribbean culture on the big screen, hiring non-Caribbean actors to make half-hearted attempts at our accents and reducing our country to beaches and drug use in the media.

There are mixed reviews on the patois featured in One Love, as there is a mix of Jamaican actors during the period of the movie shot in Jamaica contrasting with the accents of Bob and Rita’s characters. It is clear that the two main actors are not native to the accent but some argue a respectful attempt is made. 

My Opinion 

Overall, I went into the movie with cautious intrigue due to my awareness of how Caribbean stories are often represented in cinema. I am from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and therefore not Jamaican myself, my opinions derive from my identity as an Afro-Caribbean person but are not as personalised as if I were specifically Jamaican. 

That being said, upon first viewing the movie, it pleasantly surprised me in some ways. I found the representation of Black people, particularly Black Caribbean people beautiful. The impact of music and of Bob Marley’s voice as a pro-peace and anti-colonialist presence was clear throughout the movie, something I was worried would lack. 

A lot of hype surrounds Kingsley Ben-Adir’s portrayal of Bob Marley, but I feel that not enough attention is being put on Nolan Collignon who played the younger version. He physically resembles the singer more and brought a lot of authenticity even though he had fewer scenes than his co-star, I hope he gets his flowers. Back to Kingsley Ben-Adir’s performance, his patois lacked in certain scenes (particularly in the argument scene between Rita and Bob Marley). Still, his performance showed effort and respect for the role. He seemed to try to capture the essence of the singer in the performance scenes with his mannerisms and dancing. He was a brave choice for the role and seemingly has done his best with it. 

Overall, I do believe his performance is being over-hated by some and would personally say he did decently. 

I enjoyed the portrayal of Rita Marley by Lashawna Lynch but again was intrigued by the younger version of her portrayed by Nia Ashi. 

I strongly agree that some of these roles could have gone to native Jamaican actors and this was an excellent opportunity to boost country pride. Oftentimes when the Caribbean is featured in the media, we as Caribbean people are locked out of it. We have little control over who’s telling our stories and how they’re telling them. Our accents, cultures, and backgrounds are made to be the butt of the joke even when it’s supposed to be celebrated. Not giving the platform to Caribbean creatives was a big miss in that regard. 

Particularly the role of Bob Marley’s shooter, portrayed by Michael Ward, left much to be desired in terms of accent/patois accuracy. 

However, I mostly enjoyed the movie and was intrigued from start to finish. I do feel it could’ve expanded on certain elements but the message and intent were clear. 

For that reason, I personally give it a 6/10

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