It seems that late 2021 was Will Smith’s time to remind both readers and movie watchers that destiny doesn’t come by accident. Rather, who we are, want to become and where we want to be is far from accidental. It’s an intersectional journey where goal setting, planning, adapting, perseverance, relationships and unadulterated hard work come together to make success happen.
From the telling of his personal story in the autobiographical bestseller Will to the award darling King Richard, it’s quite clear that Smith (now 53) is transitioning from a man in black and bad boy to an introspective father and husband who is starting a unique chapter in his life grounded in the power of vulnerability.
Specifically, in King Richard, which is the type of drama that would be a major blockbuster in a Pre-COVID theatrical world, Smith effortlessly morphs his natural charisma with the edginess of a trauma inflicted father who is planning big for his children all while navigating realities of race and class in America.
King Richard tells the story of the Williams family and the journey that Venus and Serena Williams took to become professional tennis legends. Coached at an early age by their father and supported by a close knit family, the sisters were transformed into elite athletes who had to bare the brunt of multiple complexities.
From finding their place in white tennis society, to a father parenting through his own experience of racial trauma, the story told in King Richard is a timely reminder that so we haven’t come very far with activating on the promise of equality. Although, the Williams found their support system and one the film depicts as trust worthy, the layers of difference makes for an inspiring story of how a Black father had to protect his children and how his children also earned the right to stand and speak for themselves.
Inspiringly, King Richard transcends race and is very much a master class on fatherhood. As a father watching, I had incredibly empathy for Richard Williams and how he had to navigate moments that tore at his dignity. Yes, it’s patriarchal but as a father you yearn to protect. This is amplified when you are a father to a daughter. Thus, I found so much of myself in Richard Williams. The father who was / is afraid of how the world will impact his daughter and equally how his daughter will navigate the world around her. For the Williams, the added societal impacts of race and class make the worries Everest like.
Nonetheless, the film also tears down that patriarchal mindset and reminds fathers that parenthood is a team sport as is family life. This, perhaps is the most heartwarming chapter of the Williams’ story. Yes, the sisters went on to be legends but the family was at the centre of their “plan” for success. Success was a family affair with all five of the Williams sisters thriving to be champions in their own way.
With the Oscars right around the corner, Smith’s performance is spectacular. The quietness of it, chips away at his very persona. He is navigating Richard with the weight of his own fatherhood experience – as a child and parent. Along with his acting, the supporting cast holds every scene, which are crafted with spectacular writing and a confidence in direction. Steady, well-paced and assured in the quiet moments.
Watch King Richard. It’s a must see.