Never before have I been interested in wrestling, that is, until now. Stephen Merchant’s Fighting with My Family gives wrestling a face, a name and a beating heart, and in doing so, he gives each of us an opportunity to soften.
Fighting with My Family is based on a true story and follows British teen Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) as she pursues her dream of becoming a WWE wrestler. Upon being given the chance to join NXT, a US brand of professional wrestling that takes her one step closer to the WWE main roster, Saraya moves to Florida and adopts the stage name ‘Paige’.
Under the tough guidance of her coach Hutch (Vince Vaughn), Saraya faces the reality of what it means to become a professional wrestler whilst living 4000 miles away from her family – Ricky (Nick Frost), Julia (Lena Headey) and Zak (Jack Lowden). The film’s producer, Dwayne Johnson, also graces the screen with his presence, reminding us of his own wrestling career as The Rock, just in case we’d forgotten (we hadn’t).
It has been a long while since a film has made me both laugh AND cry, but Fighting with My Family managed to do just that. Director and writer Stephen Merchant dramatizes Paige’s story in a surprisingly heartfelt, loving and relatable way.
The cast cleverly capture the essence of the story, bringing each character to life with a visible depth and unexpected wealth of emotion. Though character development is somewhat prevalent within each member of the family––and of course within Paige herself––the unsung hero of the film is her brother, Zak. His journey is difficult and treacherous and ultimately one of redemption, and it is one that Merchant skilfully works into the film.
The music is matched comfortably to each scene, fitting in effortlessly and unobtrusively in the way that any good soundtrack should. Riddled with humour and juxtaposed between a dark England and the glittery USA, Fighting with My Family was an unexpectedly captivating, moving and entertaining movie that I would recommend a hundred times over.
A pretentious netballer at heart, I am now Googling places to wrestle in Auckland––I’m telling you, that’s how much the film will get ya.
Fighting with My Family is out in NZ cinemas from 21t March.
Reviewed by Maya Dodd