Book Review: Will Smith’s Will

by The Cowl Editor on November 18, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

Book Review: Will Smith’s Will

The Actor Shares Personal Struggles and Growth

Grace O’Connor ’22

Actor Will Smith has released a new memoir highlighting his resilience and strength, offering hope for those facing similar struggles. Known for bringing smiles to his fans through his often blunt comedy, Smith’s career began in the 1990s with the television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. From there, he found success starring in movies such as the Men in Black films, Independence Day, and I Am Legend. He currently plays the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard. 

Smith’s memoir goes in depth about instances of trauma he experienced as a child and how he has since grown from them. As he explained to NPR, “Those difficulties and those traumas and the mental anguish that I had to overcome was a big part of me growing into the person I am today, and I love my life. I’m happier than I have ever been. And it is largely based on the perception of myself that I can survive anything.” 

Smith also details his relationship with his father in the memoir, discussing how he always looked up to him. According to NPR, Smith describes his father as “one of the greatest men I’ve ever known,” and expresses that “my father was brilliant. My father was wise, and not unlike other little boys, my father was the Superman image in my mind.” However, these many great qualities Smith felt his father had were tainted by the abuse that Will and his mother experienced at his father’s hands. Although Smith does not shy away from discussing instances in which his father abused his mother, he also notes the guilt he feels in doing so as he knows that it paints his father in a bad light. He thus takes care to additionally focus on how his dad was a great teacher and upheld his duties to his family. 

Another aspect of his life Smith discusses in the memoir is his mental health experience as a child. Entertainment Tonight explains how Smith “reveals that he thought about killing himself twice in his life, with the first time being when his mother left his father” in response to her husband’s abusive behavior when Smith was 13. In his memoir, Smith not only reflects on how his mother leaving the household spurred a downward spiral in his mental health, but also examines how he found himself projecting this troubled aspect of his past onto his own relationships with women. He was concerned that he was hurting them the same way his father hurt women. It took many years for Smith to acknowledge this behavior and to grow from it rather than perpetuate it. 

Needless to say, Smith’s memoir is eye-opening, bringing to light the importance of reflecting on one’s past in order to bring about a healthier future. Smith’s transparency is refreshing, and his desire to help others by sharing his own experiences is praiseworthy.