A love letter to wrestling.
Synopsis: FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY is a heartwarming comedy based on the incredible true story of WWE Superstar Paige™. Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Paige and her brother Zak are ecstatic when they get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must leave her family and face this new, cut-throat world alone. Paige’s journey pushes her to dig deep, fight for her family, and ultimately prove to the world that what makes her different is the very thing that can make her a star. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, and Nick Frost
Writer: Stephen Merchant
Director: Stephen Merchant
Running Time: 108mins
Directed by Stephen Merchant, Fighting With My Family follows the story of the Knights, a traveling professional wrestling family in the UK. Saraya “Paige” (Pugh) and her brother Zak (Lowden) both compete in try-outs for the WWE, but only Paige receives the good news. She travels to the US to complete her training in the hope of one day becoming the WWE Divas Champion while she copes with being away from her family for the first time in her life.
This film won’t be for everyone. Its wrestling-heavy story certainly feels like a feature-length advertisement for the WWE. However, make no mistake as this film ends up being so much more than that. Be warned, if your reason for seeing this film is to see Dwayne Johnson prepare to be slightly disappointed. He appears in a few scenes throughout the film, but they embody everything great about it.
Now with that out of the way, the story is the film’s weakest aspect. Not because it is bad, but rather it’s extremely formulaic. It is the prototypical rags-to-riches tale making it very predictable. Thankfully, this is remedied by Merchant’s direction, the themes and the cast’s performances.
Stephen Merchant takes an inherently American culture and puts a British spin on it. He’s able to show us a grounded world with the British middle class as they work as professional wrestlers across the pond. This mixed with the blend of action and comedy throughout the film bring spark to this story. That isn’t even mentioning the phenomenal fight choreography throughout the film which was expected, but still managed to exceed expectation.
The story is further elevated by the phenomenal themes depicted throughout. Paige’s situation revolves around her being unsure whether or not wrestling is what she always wanted to do or what the family chose for her. She is lost without them and has no idea what to do. Meanwhile, her brother Zak is having a crisis of identity as well. He cannot fathom a life where wrestling isn’t at the centre of it, despite having other amazing things surrounding him. They have to grow and discover themselves again making for both heartbreaking and heartfelt realizations about ambition and sacrifice.
This is all brought to life by the phenomenal performances of the cast. Nick Frost and Lena Headey provide great comic relief as the parents of the Knight family. They want to see their children succeed where they did not, but they aren’t overbearing or pushy about it. Pugh is amazing as Paige creating a strong, well-rounded and conflicted protagonist who is impossible not to root for. But the scene stealer of the film was definitely Jack Lowden. The pain felt through his character’s actions and expressions are truly gut-wrenching to watch unfold onscreen. And the cameos by various wrestlers is a nice touch.
Overall, Fighting With My Family is a feel-good, wrestling-heavy family film that may seem a bit raw, but is able to smackdown on its delivery. While the pacing feels off at times and the formulaic story can be underwhelming, the strong performances, comedy, surprising amount of heart and wicked fight choreography make for a solid wrestling-centric story that puts emphasis on the importance of family. This film manages to bring just the right amount of comedy and action to this true story.
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