Some films surprise me. This was one of them. I knew this was not Shakespeare’e Richard, but rather a sports film. Really, I thought. Have I not seen enough sports movies? It is like action movies. x
But this film—to my surprise—was different. It had some of the same elements of typical sports movies, but still it was different. I thought I would hate the father of Venus and Serena Williams. Wasn’t he the unreasonable parent who had driven his children to compete for fame, glory, and wealth? How could I like that guy?
King Richard (Will Smith) is the father who devotes his life to his 5 daughters, 2 of whom have extraordinary talent to play tennis. The others seem destined for more traditional success as doctors and lawyers.
Even though this movie had some of those elements it was more than that. It asked some interesting questions. How much freedom should young parents give to their young children? How much is it reasonable to expect of their children. How much can parents do for the good of their children?
The story tells the story of a father who has extensive plans for his young African American daughters who seem to have a lot of talent to play tennis. This is often a dangerous and foolish presumption. From a very young age, he wants and expects his daughters to become professional tennis players. In fact he expects them to become the best tennis players in the world. He starts off coaching them until he realizes he need professional coaches, but he can’t help interfering. He also thinks he knows what’s best for his girls. Which fathers don’t believe that?
One of the issues is faith. Not so much children having faith in their parents, but parents having faith in their children. King Richard seemed to have near absolute faith in his daughters, yet at times, when they are young, he does not have enough faith. Then he expected his 14 year-old daughter to make momentous decisions for herself. Does that make sense?
From a young age King Richard had incredible well developed plans for his children. He wrote a book of his plans. He planned their lives. I have never thought that was a good thing for parents to do. If the parent makes plans how can he or she trust his kids?
In this film the father was not solely stuck on sports success. He wanted more for his daughters. As he said to a coach of his young star, “The main reason we’re not rushing, is that without an education no matter how good you are, by the time you’re 18 you’re gone no matter how good you are and you’re gonna have 50 more years to live like a fool.” Richard is a complex man. He is not like other tennis parents who he says “should all be shot.”
How much is big money worth? How does it compare to “patience, family, and education?” How important is humility in the face of success? What if the success is huge? What is the effect of failure?
The film explores many important questions and it does that well with an interesting story. This film is worth seeing. Even if you don’t like sports films.