FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY

While I do find it amusing overall, I’m not really a wrestling fan, or really a big fan of any sport. My closest connection to the sport is through my older brother watching WWF and then him performing the various moves on me. To be honest, I still don’t really get it. I’m not sure what’s real, what’s staged, faked, or whatever. As a competitive sport, I feel like I’ll never make sense of it, but I get that the characters and the soap operating are storylines entertaining and seemingly the primary draw with the fans. 
 
Based off a true story of the wrestler Paige, Fighting with My Family follows UK citizen Saraya Bevis (Florence Pugh), a member of family that consists entirely of wrestlers. None of them are very famous, though, and her family lives an uneventful, lower-middle class life. This all changes when the WWE comes to the UK scouting for wrestlers. Saraya and her older brother Zak (Jack Lowden) try out, but only Saraya is picked to move onto the next phase. As Saraya goes to the US to officially begin training for the WWE, her newfound success causes friction in her family, particularly with Zak. 
 
I’ve already mentioned sports aren’t really my thing, but I have no problem with sports movies. They’re certainly formulaic, but they have all the ingredients that make for a satisfying story. Just look at Rocky. It’s not a boxing movie, but a movie about a guy going the distance and giving it his all. While there’s certainly a lot of wrestling in Fighting with My Family, being produced by WWE Films and all, it’s not the main story of the film. It’s all about Saraya and Zak’s relationship and growing sibling rivalry as the events develop. I’ve always been a fan of Stephen Merchant, who wrote and directed here, and he mostly has a good balance between the comedy and drama, up until the third act where it gets a lot less funny and the pacing feels rushed. It’s your typical sports movie 3rd act, but the characters and story were strong enough to make it work. It helps that the wrestling scenes are competently directed, with fluid editing and some creative camerawork here and there. 
 
The story isn’t just about Saraya and Zak’s relationship, but about Saraya growing as a person as she adjusts to being so far from home, forging her wrestling identity, and learning just how difficult being a professional wrestler really is. All of the story beats are very predictable, even down to a training montage to gear her up after her lowest point, but Florence Pugh’s performance sells it. She played it with the right amount of vulnerability and confidence where you can root for her, but also acknowledge that she has some shortcomings she has to fix. I don’t know anything about Paige, but Pugh seemed to embody the wrestler persona well enough, having a great presence. She didn’t do her own wrestling, which was performed by Tessa Blanchard as her double, but the filmmakers did a great job at keeping that hidden. Saraya’s parents, played by Nick Frost and Lena Heady, were a kooky pair of characters that were a nice contrast to Saraya’s more determined behavior. Even Vince Vaughn was great in his supporting role, Merchant perfectly utilizing Vaughn’s personality to a play a stern and sarcastic coach. Also, any Dwayne Johnson fans will be disappointed that he only plays a cameo role, but his two scenes provide for some hilarious moments. 
 
You’re not going to see anything new in Fighting with My Family, but just because something is derivative doesn’t make it bad. Merchant wisely decided to make this a movie with wrestling instead of a movie about wrestling. All of the performances were perfectly cast and the characters had a lot of personality, which all really elevated the rather cliché proceedings. The heart inside the film is absolutely huge, and the sweet final frame actually made some minor tears develop in my eyes. It just shows that it doesn’t matter what your film is about as long as it’s about the characters and their journey. 
 
7.5/10

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