Friday Film Review - "Fighting With My Family"

Mar 1, 2019

Fighting With My Family packs a punch for anyone watching it.

Thanks to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s tenacity, writer/director Stephen Merchant, despite his initial misgivings, has brought the film, “Fighting With My Family”, based on the 2012 documentary, “The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family”, to the big screen.

“Fighting With My Family” is the story of Saraya Jade Bevis, now better known to the wresting world as Paige. The film centers on her wrestling family in Norwich, England, and how they pushed Paige as well as her older brother and wrestling partner, Zak, to be all they could be as wrestlers. When the two have a rare opportunity to try out for the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) the family is riding high thinking of what they will be able to reap from the kids’ success.  Unfortunately, all is not rosy, as only Paige is picked up leaving Zak reeling, Paige totally out of her comfort zone on her own in a strange country and the rest of the family trying to pick up the pieces of dreams not realized.

While most of the events in the film are true, one has no way of knowing if the personalities are depicted accurately.  Whether or not they are doesn’t really matter, as the people we meet on the screen are totally engaging and are as colorful as their backgrounds. Viewers will be rooting for them no matter what one’s thoughts are about professional wrestling.

Writer director Stephen Merchant has done a great job with the film especially considering he had zero knowledge or interest in pro wrestling before Dwayne Johnson came to him asking if he would take on the project. Merchant had no desire to do it, but thankfully, he finally relented. Merchant’s screenplay and directorial skills took what many might consider to be a less than savory world and created people full of heart who are just trying to make their family life one full of love and fun using what they know how to do best in an unapologetic and honest way. Merchant does this with just the right combination of humor and drama, which keeps the viewer engaged to the end.

Much of the cast, like Merchant, knew nothing about pro wrestling prior to making the film. Despite this, the cast was able to totally embrace their characters. Lena Headey and Nick Frost give delightful performances as the parents. It almost seems they may have drawn on Sharon and Ozzie Osbourne as inspiration for their outlandishness, but whatever the source of their inspiration, there is a lot of honest chemistry between them.  Both are so at ease in their roles one could believe they are the actual parents. Jack Lowden, as older brother Zak, also provides a strong performance as the loving, supportive brother who finds himself lost in an unknown world without his go-to anchor to steady him. 

Kudos to Florence Pugh for her perfect performance as Paige.  The initial grudging acceptance of her life path, followed by her going from being the biggest fish in a small pond to the smallest fish in a huge pond, along with her sense of being an outcast, is beautifully depicted without ever going over the top. For a bit of fun, be sure to watch writer/director Stephen Merchant’s performance as Hugh, a soon to be in-law of this whacky group.

While the cast does a great job and the soundtrack is wonderfully matched with all parts of the film, the best part of “Fighting With My Family” is the fact that this movie is enjoyable whether you are a wrestling fan or not.  I have to admit, I am not at all a fan of the WWE and I went to this movie because this was the only one I could get to.  I haven’t watched wrestling since I was a little kid and my older brothers would watch it on Saturday mornings. It was amusing, until one of my siblings decided to try the atomic drop on me.  So it was, that I went to “Fighting With My Family” with the promise I would try to be unbiased and, after all, it was a relatively short film.  Imagine my amazement when I found myself totally immersed in the film from the opening scene and spent the entire time flinching with the action, feeling the highs and lows with all my heart, and most incredulously, being completely emotionally and physically engaged during the climatic fight.

Viewers should know to stay through the end credits, and while watching them, be sure to listen to the lyrics of the end credits song. Trust me when I say, no matter your lot in life, there is something in this film with which everyone can identify.

“Fighting With My Family”, may not make you a devotee of WWE, but it is full of fabulous life lessons for all, and is a well-paced 1hour and 48 minutes in length. It is rated PG-13 for “crude and sexual material, language throughout, some violence and drug content”.

This is Libby Wadman with the Friday film review, reminding you that film is always fun and fascinating.