Kevin Macdonald’s documentary follows the life of Bob Marley and the struggles he went through for acceptance, love and fame.
Bob Marley is one of these figures from our past that continues to intrigue and fascinate even to this day. Bob Marley was the leading reggae artist in the world at the time of his death in 1981, and although many have tried to emulate him since, none have come close to his passion.
Marley has gone through many incarnations through the years; Martin Scorsese was originally on board as director, then Jonathan Demme’s name was floating around for a while. Ultimately it is Last King of Scotland director Kevin Macdonald who has captured this story.
The film follows Bob Marley’s life from his birth in St Ann’s Parish in Jamaica, through his moves to Trench Town, the US and the UK and the genesis of his music career. As well as this, the film looks at the elements that defined Bob Marley; his involvement in Rastafarianism and the prejudice he suffered as a child from a mixed background.
Family, friends and colleagues are interviewed, and their stories weave together to create a rich portrait of the singer. Archive footage of interviews with Bob Marley and concert footage round out the information. Marley is not portrayed as a wholly sympathetic character; rather the film tries to be as unbiased as possible towards it’s subject matter. Interviews with Marley’s children and wife that lay out his dismissive and competitive nature are not shied away from, and nor is his strong – albeit unwilling – involvement in politics.
At an impressive 144 minutes long, Marley is definitely a film made for fans of Bob Marley, but there is also enough intrigue about this man that will bring in the casual viewer. The problem is that the film tries a little too hard to tell every side of the story, which means that it gets bogged down in detail, rather than allowing the story to unfold naturally. Thankfully, the film is well executed enough to just about make up for this, and includes all the songs the audience would expect to hear.
In all, Marley is not a film for those who have no love for reggae or a fleeting curiosity about the legend that is Bob Marley. Ideal audience members are die hard fans, but the less intense fan of Bob Marley will find information of value and interest here as well. The film is beautifully shot and edited, but sometimes falls victim to it’s own desire to pierce the enigma of Bob Marley.