Naomi Osaka, the Netflix original series, follows tennis champion Naomi Osaka as she navigates fame, wins, losses, and the roller coaster of a ride that was 2020. So, to mark the limited series, and to give you a non-spoiler-y take on it, here are the things we enjoyed, which are also the reasons why you should give this documentary a try.
The first and most noticeable thing is that the overall feeling of the documentary really fits the vibe of Naomi. It’s quiet, calm, centered. It’s easy to get swept away in the silences and the still moments where life is happening but the present moment is the most intense thing. The silences work to let you know who Naomi is, what she values, the fight she has in her to be the best. No one involved seems super interested in making this about anything other than Naomi and her needs, fears, abilities, and her way of life. Sometimes she’s surrounded by family, sometimes she lonely and isolated. Sometimes she’s afraid; other times she’s brave and standing up for the right thing.
She’s human. Quietly, perfectly so.
It’s nice that the documentary is about her, for her, and because of her, rather than feeling like one long marketing piece.
I also really liked the things Naomi had to say about fame, the pressures, and even her role as an icon. She has a unique experience as someone who is bi-racial and a champion. Sometimes she’s ostracized from both communities, at other times she’s claimed by both, and it’s not always easy to manage the expectations both communities put on her on top of everything else she needs to manage. She lives in a strange world where fame, sports, the political act of being, and growing up as a young adult intersect in sometimes difficult ways. Her reality is not everyone’s world, and it’s fascinating to see her figure out her place in the world, realize that only she can be the blueprint of her future, and set an example for others.
The last and most important thing that I really enjoyed in Naomi Osaka is that it feels authentic. It feels like a conversation between her and the audience rather than a loud, informative piece meant to educate. It’s a subtle power and makes it all feel more human.
I don’t know if she’s particularly worried about being understood, or if the haters are going to feel differently after this, but the quiet vibes, authenticity, and realness of the expectations make it all feel like she’s sitting down at a dinner to talk about the highs and lows of her experience without trying to soften the blows or limit the good things she has. This is her life. This is her reality, take it or leave it.
It’s refreshing, endearing, heartbreaking, and truly brave of her to start this conversation, and I hope it’s one that others in the sport can carry forward as the issues of mental health, fame, and the realities of the sport shift and come to light.
Naomi Osaka is streaming on Netflix on July 16th.
Check out the trailer here: