Marley

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Marley Movie Poster Image
Comprehensive docu on iconic reggae musician.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 145 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

This documentary shows the healing and transformative power of music. It demonstrates music bringing happiness to people throughout the world, and the ability of music to bring about unity in times of deep political divisions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

At his core, Bob Marley was a deeply spiritual man who used his music as a vehicle in which to express an earnest desire for peace and love for all mankind. Not everyone will approve of some of his life choices, but his legacy as a musician is transcendent.

Violence

The film features news footage of Jamaica's political unrest during the 1970s as a backdrop to Bob Marley's life and career. There are riot scenes, people on the streets of Kingston shooting guns, a man getting bitten and dragged in the leg by a police dog, and a dead body on the street.

Sex

There is frank discussion of Bob Marley's sex life, and how he fathered 11 children by seven different women.

Language

Not much iffy language other than "ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Predictably enough to anyone familiar with Bob Marley, reggae music, and the Rastafarian religion, this documentary shows frequent marijuana use, and discussion of marijuana smoking and its relation to Rastafarians.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Marley is an excellent and comprehensive documentary on the iconic reggae musician. Unsurprising to those familiar with Marley, reggae music, and the Rastafarian religion, there are frequent pictures and videos where Marley and his band The Wailers are smoking marijuana, and there is discussion about marijuana and its role in Marley's life and Jamaican culture. There is also frank discussion of Marley's numerous affairs; he had 11 children with seven different women while married. To provide necessary context, viewers see news footage of the sometimes violent civil unrest in Jamaica in the 1970s. However, none of this overshadows the central message of the film: Bob Marley was a deeply spiritual man dedicated to making others happy with his music, and to using his music as an instrument to promote peace, unity, and love. 

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What's the story?

MARLEY is the definitive documentary on the life, times, and music of iconic reggae musician Bob Marley. It follows Marley from his birth in 1945 in St. Ann, Jamaica, where he began with an outcast status because he was born to mixed-race parents, and continues to show his growing love for music. It follows Marley's early career in the 1960s, his minor hit songs in Jamaica, and a brief move to Wilmington, Delaware when he believed his musical career wasn't going anywhere. The film also shows his growing interests in the Rastafarian religion and how this informed and inspired his music, as Marley returned to Jamaica and became an international star in the 1970s, as his homeland descended into political unrest, even leading to an assassination attempt on Marley. Exiled in London, Marley continued to create music loved by millions; a homecoming concert culminated in a dramatic on-stage display of unity between the leaders of two warring political factions. The film documents Marley's world-wide success, concern over Third World injustice, and his untimely death at age 36 of cancer.

Is it any good?

Marley is a comprehensive and ultimately moving documentary of the man who is still -- several decades after his death -- the face most associated with reggae music. What emerges from the interview footage with those who knew him best and the video footage of Bob Marley and the Wailers concerts is a man inspired to use his music as a way to spread peace throughout the world, and to raise awareness of the plight of the Third World.

News footage of Jamaica's independence in 1962, of Haile Selassie (considered to be a god to Rastafarians) arriving in Jamaica, and the civil unrest throughout Jamaica during the 1970s provides the context for Marley's concerns as expressed in his songs and his concerts. For those with only a familiarity with Bob Marley songs and a bare bones idea of Jamaican culture, you can expect to learn many things about the ups and downs in Marley's life as he became an international superstar before his life ended much too soon. Simply put: It is an informative and inspiring tribute to a beloved artist.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the power of art and music. What does this documentary say about music and its power to transcend cultures and politics? What role does art play in politics throughout history?

  • What challenges do you think the filmmakers faced in presenting Bob Marley's life and music, as well as Jamaican culture, religion, and politics?

  • What are the different cinematic tools the filmmakers use to tell Bob Marley's story? Which do you think are the most effective?

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