Fighting With My Family is entertaining fun that pulls no punches with its emotional impact.
This comedy-drama biopic follows the rise of WWE star Paige (off-stage name Saraya Knight) from small-town wrestler to international stardom.
The Knights are a wrestling family through and through. Parents Ricky and Julia own a small local wrestling company in Norwich, England, which they perform in with their children. Siblings Saraya and Zak are given the chance to try-out for their dream position in WWE as professional wrestlers but when only Saraya is offered the opportunity, a rift in their relationship develops. With Saraya missing home and Zak missing out on his dream, Fighting With My Family has emotional hits harder than a fold-up chair to the face. Despite the raw emotions, this film is foremost a comedy and a fun-filled one at that.
Saraya – stage name Paige after Charmed Witch – is the unconventional underdog that we can’t help but feel endeared towards. When she’s sent to Florida to train, her fish-out-of-water story can hit home for anyone who’s felt out of their league or lonely, especially when she’s put up against tall, perfect bodied American models. Actress Florence Pugh balances the tough, independent exterior of Paige with Saraya’s vulnerability and inner insecurity well, creating a fully realised character.
With a film chock-a-block with acting talent, it’s difficult to condense everyone down to just one review. Nick Frost’s performance has been heralded as his best since Hot Fuzz and it’s clear to see why. Frost brings brawn and heart to Ricky’s character and is, of course, hilarious, serving some of the best punchlines in the film. Jack Lowden offers up a touching portrayal of Zak, whose rejection from WWE sends him down an emotionally turbulent spiral. Even when Zak is lashing out in increasingly irresponsible ways, his raw vulnerability keeps the audience from dismissing the character as immature or annoying. Lena Headey is almost unrecognisable with her stark transformation from severe and proud Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones) to the fun-spirited, bombastic character, Julia, with rocker piercings, jet black hair and bright highlights. Though she handles the financial management of their wrestling company, she’s certainly not the cliched “sensible wife/ mum” character and can wrestle with the same ferocity as every other character.
The respect writer and director, Stephen Merchant, had for the sport and Knight family is evident from his approach to the story and it’s clear the real-life subjects were consulted during the filming process, helping to add realism to the film’s portrayal. The inclusion of real filmed interview clips from the family in the credits was also a nice touch that personalised the film further. Unlike many biopics, Fighting With My Family doesn’t try to gloss over the hard and fast reality of trying to enter a billion dollar industry or the added difficulty of coming from a working-class background. The film is unapologetically British and gives one of the best portrayals of English working class living in any comedy, without being mocking or condescending.
Fighting With My Family is a must-watch for wrestling fans, with exciting wrestling sequences that can rouse a cinema audience to cheer and whoop just as loud as the in-film arena audience. When the film enters the WWE world, keen wrestling fans can play a Where’s Wally of wrestling talent with background actors and even non-wrestling fans will recognise the biggest (in both popularity and physical size) wrestler cameo. Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson has a large cameo in the film, giving our main characters a chance to gush over their idol. He is charming, sweet, and always a funny addition to the screen.
For any people who think wrestling is just silly or fake, their expectations are soon brutally crushed. “If it were fake,” barks Frost’s character, “would I have broken half the bones in my body?” A large portion of the film follows Paige during her training and goes to show just how much workout goes into the job, with wrestlers often pushed far beyond their physical limits or else dropped from the program. If you didn’t respect the performers before this film, you sure will after.
Like the performance sport this film depicts, Fighting With My Family is fun, raw, and often exhilarating to watch. As a non-wrestling fan, it’s an entertaining introduction to the sport, and as an avid fan, it’s everything you’d hope for. Either way, when walking out of this film, you’ll likely be inspired to try-out a suplex move on your friends. Stay safe, folks!