‘King Richard’: The Story of a Father’s Love

We have all heard of the court-dominating duo, the sisters that transformed tennis, the best players of all time: Serena and Venus Williams. What some of us haven’t heard about is the man behind the Williams sisters’ success. King Richard, now streaming and in theaters, takes viewers to the very beginning of their journey, retelling Richard Williams’ (played by Will Smith) ambitious, elaborate, 78-page career plan for his daughters—crafted before they were even born. To offer his daughters opportunities beyond Compton, California and confront the racial exclusivity of tennis, he planned for them to become professional tennis players, win multiple Grand Slams, and simply be the best. Despite the challenges faced along the way, it all came true.

King Richard spotlights Venus’ path to fame, casting a bit of a shadow over Serena. Despite her undeniable success, Serena is more of a background character in King Richard. Many scenes show young Serena quietly lashing out against the attention invested in Venus; one depicts her secretly enrolling herself in the Junior Circuit out of envy for Venus’ constant participation in tournaments. Evidently, the two-and-a-half-hour movie could only cover so much of the Williams’ story, so the omission is justifiable. By the end of the film, Serena is only 12. At Venus’ U.S. Open debut, Richard also reveals that Serena being in the shadows for most of her youth is part of his strategic plan.

In the film, Richard is portrayed as persistent and determined. He coaches his daughters and desperately searches for a professional, pro bono instructor by day, all while working as a security guard by night. His wife, Brandi (played by Aunjanue Ellis), works tirelessly as both a nurse and a co-interim coach for Venus and Serena. Brandi and her husband lay the foundation for the success of their five daughters: Tunde, Venus, Lyndrea, Serena, and Isha. As a family that embodies commitment and perseverance, the Williams defy all odds.

Although extremely optimistic, Richard’s stubbornness drives Venus and Serena to deviate from the traditional pathway to greatness and instead pave their own. At times this path may appear foolish to some; Richard’s decisions can seem incredibly rash, keeping viewers at the edge of their seats and causing them to speculate if he is to be considered a “king” after all. Senior Alyssa Batcheler said, “Richard is a multi-dimensional character who, although not always likable, is a unique type of protagonist.” Brandi, however, is one of the only individuals who successfully challenges Richard’s firm opinions, creating a balanced family dynamic that aids in the sisters’ triumph.

Grab some buttery popcorn and settle in to watch King Richard.