When news first broke of a Williams sisters movie, excitement grew for what was surely going to be one of the best sports stories of the modern era. Once they announced that the film was going to be called ‘King Richard’ and will focus on their father, I must admit that I thought this was a huge missed opportunity to tell the story from the Williams sisters point of view. But with Serena and Venus Williams onboard as Executive Producers, this was always going to be a reliable project. The end result is a fantastic and emotionally charged journey featuring an awards-season turn from Will Smith.
Richard Williams (Will Smith) is a hard-working family man, who spends every moment of his life making sure his children are studying and prepared for whatever life throws at them. Determined to do right by his kids and give them opportunities for a better life, and coupled alongside a dogged desire to attain perfection, Richard trains his daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) daily to exceed their rising potential on the Tennis court. With no wealthy background and no tennis club coaching, they train in local parks and have to deal with many obstacles, but with their raw talent and Richard’s unwavering pursuit of excellence, the Williams sisters begin a remarkable journey to the very top of the sporting world.
This is a remarkable true story, and one that has practically everything. ‘King Richard’ is an absorbing and edge of your seat biographical tale that really captures the essence of the man Richard Williams, but crucially giving Venus and Serena just as much development and screentime. That was my initial concern addressed, and you realise that the full story involves all three Williams family members to give us a complete picture of their incredible rise to fame.
Will Smith has always been an undeniable talent and possesses a natural screen presence that resonates far and wide. But his recent film output has certainly dipped in quality. A few big-budget misfires clearly hurt his momentum and a few odd choices (‘A New York Winter’s Tale’ especially) didn’t do anything to address the slump. ‘King Richard’ has firmly put Will Smith back on the right path, with Smith delivering one of the best performances of his career here. He is magnetic onscreen and carries the film with an assured stance.
The casting of the Williams sisters themselves was a huge reason why ‘King Richard’ works so well. Both Saniyya Sidney (Venus) and Demi Singleton (Serena) are wonderful in the movie, and both deliver an engaging and mature performance that works perfectly alongside Will Smith. Their central chemistry is utterly believable and the trio are at the centre of every aspect of this film. Playing very much as the heart of this film, Sidney and Singleton are talents to keep an eye out for in the future, with surely a long career in acting ahead for both.
The supporting cast is also superb in ‘King Richard’ with Tony Goldwyn quite brilliant as coach Paul Cohen. The dynamic between he and Smith always keeps hold of your attention, and it’s nice to see Goldwyn back on the big screen where he belongs. When Jon Bernthal is introduced as coach Rick Macci, the ante is upped yet again, and the chemistry between him and Smith positively pops onscreen. Their exchanges are some of the best parts of the movie and are entertaining throughout.
The story of the Williams sisters is a remarkable, inspiring and truly incredible journey. They both faced countless obstacles based on their upbringing, race, gender and social standing – and that’s not even including the small fact that they are true generational talents on the Tennis court. Their story is one of hope and determination, led by a parent who wanted a better life for his children and was willing to sacrifice his own comforts for the good of his family. The film doesn’t shy away from the hardships and mistakes Richard Williams made in his life too, and that was a brave and important aspect to the story that needed to be included. ‘King Richard’ is all the better for it and makes the film one of the most compelling cinematic watches you’ll see all year. Even if you aren’t a fan of Tennis, this movie has a human-interest story that will resonate with all who watch it. Don’t miss this uplifting tale of two of the greatest sports stars ever.
Cast: Will Smith, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Jon Bernthal, Tony Goldwyn Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green Writer: Zach Baylin Certificate: 12A Duration: 138 mins Released by: Warner Bros Release date: 19th November 2021