Usain Bolt and bobsleighs aside, when someone mentions Jamaica you think of either reggae, Rastas or weed. In other words, you think of Bob Marley; the undisputed paragon of everything we associate with that “laid-back” corner of the Caribbean. But Bob was a little more than a nonchalant stoner who sung a few tunes, you know. As far as singer/songwriters go, they don’t come much bigger than Bob Marley. His and The Wailers’ universal songs of love, peace and hope rank amidst some of the finest and most recognizable ever given up to music. There are even those who would liken Bob to Ghandi. A bit over the top sure, but the comparisons are there (sort of): an immortal advocate of peace and altruism, a liberal and a national treasure. And yet Bob Marley was not without fault and, until now, a fair share of unworthy documentaries.
Kevin Macdonald’s (The Last King of Scotland) ‘bio-doc’ about Bob’s life and legacy is a stylish and honest mediation on the man behind the myth that charts his physical and spiritual journey through the music world; his quest for success that would transform him from the rejected frontman of a budding ska band to the iconic, liberating arbitrator whose timeless tunes went beyond music and unified colours, creeds and a country in meltdown.
Made with the full cooperation of Bob’s family and friends and told largely through their accounts, Marley is a potent and essential piece of documentary film-making. Kevin Macdonald could’ve made the man out to be some kind of saint. But he doesn’t. Macdonald’s various interviews with those who knew Bob best in addition to a heap of archival stills and footage paint the pop-icon in a variety of ways; conflicted, poised, selfish, kind, wanton, loyal, driven, stubborn, free. Marley lays bare the heart and soul of the dread-locked Rasta in some style.
A level of cohesion and humanity is well and truly found in the director’s attention to detail regarding Bob’s estranged personal life; from his impoverished roots and search for acceptance to his self-serving, self-sacrificing ways and stirring date with cancer.
Despite a muddled and stuttered opening, Marley boasts an absolving and deeply moving final third that ties the hefty, 146 minute bio-doc up in style. This is a fresh and thoughtful trip through the life of a music legend with scope and soul in spades; an intriguing and chic fusion of art, music and history. Marley is the quintessential portrait of Bob Marley’s life. See it.
Marley (2012), directed by Kevin Macdonald, is distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures, Certificate 15.