You don’t have to be stoned to watch the most recent documentary about Bob Marley titled Marley. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you don’t have to be stoned to watch Marley. Really. I’ve seen it twice, the last time sober and accompanied by two friends: one that works in media and my roommate who works in tech. Like me, both of them really enjoyed the movie and the three of us were the perfect target audience:
- A Bob Marley & The Wailers fan (a.k.a. me).
- Someone that enjoys watching anything related to music (a.k.a. my friend).
- A person willing to watch anything that’s educational (a.k.a. my roommate).
The movie is beautifully shot and the kind of access that director Kevin MacDonald has is truly terrific. There are never before seen home videos, wonderful Jamaican archival footage, private family photographs and multiple anecdotes from key players who were directly connected to Bob Marley throughout his life. Ziggy Marley (Bob Marley’s son and musician) and Chris Blackwell (former producer for Bob Marley & The Wailers) are Executive Producers for the film and even though that is usually not a good sign for a story that’s impartially told, in this case, thanks to their involvement the story feels intimate, three dimensional and complex. One of the reasons why their Executive Producer credits don’t bother me is because there are many ways of confirming the information that they disclose in their interviews. The documentary certainly presents Bob Marley under a flattering light, but many of the facts can be easily confirmed online which makes it difficult to argue that they happened in the way the documentary tells it. When you follow the life of a boy that grew up in poverty in Jamaica and becomes a man that achieves timeless international fame by singing songs about love and freedom, one has to try really hard to dislike the guy. Not every musician out there will (has or would) sing in the middle of a tear gas bomb attack. I don’t want to spoil the film, but it’s kind of unbelievable. Just sayin’.
The beginning of the movie is slow, possibly intentionally. It seems as if the filmmakers take time to introduce the story and they don’t assume that the audience knows anything about Bob Marley, The Wailers or the origins of their music. I can respect slow exposition if there is a steady build up and a meaningful pay off and I believe this film has all those elements. Like my friends, I think there could have been more context, especially in terms of Jamaican politics and the Rastafarian philosophy. At the same time, it is mentioned that Bob did not care about politic, and even though his songs were politically charged, political party association was never part of his agenda. To me, that’s a good enough reason to let go of my curiosity about Jamaica’s political climate. Ultimately, that is not what this film is about.
I strongly recommend you check out Marley not only because you can watch it for “free” on Netflix, but mostly because I would hope that this story will remind you of just how strong will-power can be. Perhaps this film will urge you to think about what you believe in and highlight some of your values, your morals, your love. Marley is kind of an inspirational film and in contrast to what other local critics are saying, I don’t think this is a movie for fans only. It’s a move for everyone.
For that, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.