There is a haunting image of Bob Marley’s face near the end of Marley: Stay with the Rhythm — a pair of large, frightened eyes peering out from a body that has been first ravaged by cancer and then ravaged by treatment for cancer — that exposes the brutal truth of how death can swoop down and consume the most vibrant of lives. This look of shock and disappointment at his God, Jah, who did not spare his life in the end, clings in memory long after the film ends. To be taken so suddenly, so young, when you’re doing almost everything right is part of the DNA of our collective insanity: we continue to live our lives with the burden of knowing we could die now, or we could die later, but we all will die. Marley had faith in Jah to carry him through. His abandonment comes through so clearly at the end of Marley, Kevin Macdonald’s deeply felt biopic of Bob Marley, the reggae master who turned on the world with his tanky swoon of a voice, and that beautiful face and body; growing up with Marley’s music meant you either wanted to sleep with him or BE him. Watching the Marley doc now gives you a chance to know him. Bob Marley was born to a philandering white military man and a Jamaican mother, both parents restless and unable to stay very long in one place. Though he didn’t have a stable early life, he would build his own stability through his long-term marriage, his many children, his mistresses and the temple he built of his music. The film is a fascinating look into his background, his inspirations and his far-flung family. Marley fathered many children both in and out of marriage. The women he knew hovered around him whether they had him exclusively or not. The documentary is less about the filmmaker than about its subject, something that is mostly rare in popular docs these days, which are often about fanning the plumage of their own directorial voice — their advocacy. But Macdonald let’s the film be about Marley and that is quite enough. The story begins with Marley’s childhood in Jamaica where he first gravitated towards music. Though white America would later identify with and fall in love with Bob Marley packaged just the way he was, most Jamaican women of the day had something “darker and taller” in mind for their ideal mate. Marley didn’t meet those island expectations. Light-skinned and short-ish, he was disregarded for those distinctions. For that reason it was hard for him in his youth to get women — one of the many ironies in the film. Another irony, of course, is that Marley’s white father and family never sired anyone remotely more famous who could match the world-renown of their ignored, bastard relative. Marley became the legend, and they could only unconvincingly attach themselves to him long after. But it wasn’t so harmonious in the family Marley fathered himself; his own children found him to be a taskmaster (more akin to his own militaristic father than to his laid-back Jamaican roots). Some of the women, no doubt, found it difficult to love and devote themselves to a man who wanted so many women and never wanted to be faithful to one. Although music, Jah and marijuana were the holy trinity Marley lived by, he did eventually find his roundabout way to political influence in hopes of making peace in his homeland of Jamaica. If his own people don’t appreciate him for becoming a star to the white world, they surely have accepted their native son for the peacemaking he achieved. Of course, in the end, what Marley leaves behind is a legacy of music — there is no other and there never ever will be. He once sang, “Not all the money on the Earth will buy you one more minute of life.” And that turned out to be oh so true. A spot of melanoma growing on his toe was ignored by doctors and Marley, who refused treatment so he could keep playing soccer. The cancer spread. It ravaged every organ of his body. The documentary Marley is a way of celebrating the legend, as well as providing a humanistic portrait of a complex, ridiculously talented man who was perhaps undone, ultimately, by his faith in a god who failed him. And that is what you see in his eyes when his trust has been shattered by that ultimate truth. Probably many will think there were many different ways to tell this story and that this doc left too much out. At over two hours, it really couldn’t afford to add anything back in. the family is reportedly happy with this version of his life — and after all they’ve been through, it is their legacy to preserve, their image to promote, their name to protect. His music does the rest. In the end, Marley’s faith in his music is the higher power that never betrayed him. Marley is playing on VOD and in theaters.