I underestimated the amount of research I had to do for this review. The reason being It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything from the WWE, despite this I know a few icons like The Rock, Stone Cold and my favourite from back in the day Rey Mysterio. But even more relevant I was familiar with the story of Paige as I remember hearing about the Channel 4 Documentary Fighting with My Family was based on. With the very funny Stephen Merchant at the director’s helm, I was curious as to how comedic they were going to make a quite dramatic story. Luckily the drama is still in there in the form of a tense family conflict whilst also being incredibly funny.
The film does a fantastic job of introducing what kind of people the Knight family are, they are a riveting family who has devoted their lives to the, some would say, art of wrestling. You have the husband and wife Ricky (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey) along with them on Zak (Jack Lowden) and the star of the film Saraya who goes by the wrestling name Paige (Florence Pugh). From the beginning of the film this family has your attention, they’ve made wrestling the centrepiece of their lives, so much so that when their kids fight, Ricky and Julia are always encouraging it to improve their skills. This oddity eases us to get invested in this family as well as the authentic dynamic between characters.
In my eyes, there are two stand out performance, which works with the two presented genres, firstly we witness a great dramatic performance from Florence Pugh who manages to spectacularly pull off the aggressive, yet timid Paige. She brings an almost duel personality to her performance, one wrestling Paige where she’s this aggressive, determined ball of energy and on the other hand you have everyday Paige who is caring, shy and still trying the discover where she fits in WWE. Next, we go to comedy and of course, the biggest comedy name on the cast list Nick Frost hits all the right marks. I feel like Nick Frost doesn’t even need to use words to pull off a joke, but he does here and it like a refresher from the darker places the film goes. His character Ricky is the most enthusiastic about wrestling, even being the head of his own shows, and beneath the tough guy look is a supportive dad to Paige in a kind of “whatever you want to do, do it” way.
A big driving force of the film is the sibling conflict between Paige and Zak (giving the title two meanings). Zak doesn’t take it all that well when her sister is picked for WWE and he isn’t, you can see from Jack Lowden’s performance that it becomes a much bigger burden as the film progresses, losing the passion to teach wrestling to kids on the street.
Although underdog story and outsider story are almost the same, Fighting with My Family is more of an outsider story than underdog as being an outsider is more fitting to her character. Paige isn’t exactly the type of person who came from nothing, she has wrestling credentials, a point the film looks to emphasize as she appears to be the only female performer with experience, the rest of which being models, cheerleaders etc. who she ends up advising at one point. However just because this is more of an outsider film, doesn’t mean it borrows underdog tropes. The narrative structure of the underdog is still there and they’re not a lot of effort to tailor the film to something new. You still have a giving up scene, you have the finding your motivation scene and so on. To some this may seem too familiar and mundane but there is a flow to it so I’m giving it a bit of a pass.
What I noticed during my post-research is that Fighting with My Family was quite specific about what it wanted to show about Paige’s journey to the WWE. There were quite a few moments in her journey that the film decided to miss out such as her becoming the first NXT Women’s Championship (the developmental program of the WWE) which in itself is a massive achievement. Just select moments here and there that I think would have great potential on the screen that wouldn’t disrupt the outsider narrative too much.
Overall, I was very satisfied with Fighting with My Family, mainly down to the authenticity of everything. In between the authenticity is a warm yet amusing story, it may trail down the typical tropes of a film with a similar nature, Fighting with My Family take it to the next level with an intense conflict that keeps getting tenser and an interesting lead. And that’s the bottom line because SMReviews said so!
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Fighting with My Family? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Captain Marvel