Wrestling sure has changed since its heyday back in the 80’s. Believe it or not, back in those days there were many people who believed it was real, the wrestlers themselves would use razor blades to cut their faces to further the illusion. Big names like Andre’ the Giant, Sargent Slaughter and Hulk Hogan dominated the scenes and Hulkamania was all the rage. Wrestling these days still has characters larger than life who wage good versus evil battles against one another. Although now the focus is not only on what happens in the ring, but the characters and personas that present themselves outside the ring. Fighting with My Family, written and directed by Stephen Merchant (writer for The Office and Extras), takes us on a young woman’s rise from a family wrestling league to one of the youngest female stars to be featured in WWE.
Saraya “Paige” Bevis (Florence Pugh) alongside her brother Zak “Zodiac” Bevis (Jack Lowden) and parents (Nick Frost / Lena Headey) are a family run wrestling team. Trying to make a name for themselves they run a small gym in Norwich, England. Training up-and-coming wrestlers and putting on shows for the locals in hopes of a shot at the big time. One fateful evening, while Zak’s far more conservative girlfriend and her parents are over for dinner, a call comes from the WWE that will change both of their lives.
Saraya and Zak are offered an opportunity to compete against others for a chance to join similar hopefuls in Florida for a chance to be the next big thing. As one would expect, the competition is fierce and at the end of the day, only Saraya is chosen for a chance to go to America. The choice to take her and not her brother results in a sibling rivalry that neither would have anticipated when they were both trying out. Ultimately Saraya must choose to go forward with her dream or stay with her family, and while the choice is not easy, there wouldn’t be much of a film if she chose to stay. So, begins Saraya’s journey to show that she has not only the skills and strength, but the heart to succeed.
Fighting with My Family is a movie that has a tremendous amount of heart even if there is little interest in its source material. While it certainly does focus on wrestling as the key component, it could have easily been replaced with any other sport and had the same heart-warming success. This is not a movie only about the wild world of professional wrestling, but about one woman who must overcome her own self-doubts and insecurities to succeed. It’s a film about not only believing in yourself (even when others do not) but pushing yourself to follow your dreams no matter how difficult the road to achieving them turns out to be. The film reminds us that we should not simply take everything at face value, and that sometimes judging a book by it’s cover can prevent us from the magic that is held in the pages underneath.
The superior cast connects with the viewers on many levels. Whether its Jack Lowden’s portrayal of a man who worked hard only to fall short of his dreams, to Florence Pugh’s portrayal of Paige, a woman who constantly struggles with her choice and whether wrestling is her dream or simply the dream her parents pushed upon her. As always Vince Vaughn does an outstanding job delivering not only on the comedic aspects of the film, but also when tasked at delivering a more serious tone. This is a movie that will have you cheering for each character, and even applauding throughout.
Even though wrestling was a huge part of growing up, spanning everything from action figures to video games, I’ve never considered myself to be a wrestling fan. For those of you who are instantly looking to forego this movie because of the wrestling content, I’d ask you to reconsider. Fighting with My Family is so much more than simply a “wrestling movie”, and while it likely won’t convert you into being a die hard wrestling fan at the end, you might just be surprised at how much you take away from it when you leave the theater. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cheer (at least that’s what all the viewers did at the screening I attended) and can you really say that about many movies these days?
4 out of 5 stars
You can also see a video interview Gareth did a few years back at San Diego Comic Con featuring Paige below.