As someone who has held a tennis racket maybe once in my life and hasn’t seen a single tennis match, I was skeptical at first. Thankfully the sport is just a background for a moving story about the dedication and human decency that got the Williams sisters the chance to compete. Richard Williams does not take “no” for an answer, but it has its consequences. The film takes you step by step from when Venus Williams was about 11 years old to when she played against a world champion at 14, gaining international attention.
It does not shy away from showing the audience how difficult Richard was for those close to him, which makes Smith’s performance feel even more real. However, he doesn’t carry this film alone. There are so many great performances here, especially with Venus and Serena's mother Brandi Williams (Aunjanue Ellis) and Rick Macci (John Bernthal) making every scene more vibrant. The same cannot be said about the young actresses playing Venus and Serena, who mostly just smile and run around, which isn’t an exaggeration. But what really takes you out of the film most of all is the music. It’s generic to the point where you feel it might be a joke.
This sports drama doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but the lead performances engage you emotionally, making this grueling and seemingly impossible journey toward professional tennis into something you want to watch. Despite having some issues, it keeps you on your toes by taking in the audience as part of the Williams family. Most importantly, it feels genuine in its portrayal of Richard as someone, whose dedication and stubbornness paved the path for his daughters to thrive.