Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Let me make something clear before I dive into my review: I don’t like wrestling. Actually, I hate wrestling. I could barely name another wrestler aside from The Rock and John Cena, so at a glance this film really isn’t marketed towards me. But when we go a little deeper, it becomes clear that this is an incredibly accessible film with a powerful message.
Fighting With My Family tells the story of Norwich-born Saraya “Paige” Bevis. Brought up in a family of wrestlers, Bevis spent her life wrestling alongside her parents, brother and the local community, drawing in small crowds on a regular basis. The family has dreams of making WWE and becoming professional wrestlers, even going as far as sending audition tapes to the company. When Saraya and her brother Zak “Zodiac” are called for an official audition, the family’s lives change for better and for worse.
With an all-star cast including The Rock (obviously), Vince Vaughn, Nick Frost, Lena Headey and Florence Pugh, it’s an incredibly appealing film. Everyone involved takes to their roles effortlessly, bringing all the charm and quirks of the characters to life. It’s so easy to like the Knight family, as they come across as a strange yet passionate family who’d do everything in their power to support the community around them. It’s refreshing to see a depiction of working-class life that doesn’t make the audience sneer or judge. I found myself rooting for the Knights all the way, and wishing them all the best. Pugh embodies Paige so well, to the point where it was easy to believe you were watching the woman herself. She’s so awkward, British and hugely likeable throughout.
I was also surprised to learn that Stephen Merchant (yes, that Stephen Merchant) was at the helm of this film. I adored his direction style and hilarious cameo, making this an unlikely project that worked like a charm. Based off the documentary of the same name, Merchant brings his own unique vision to the project, with the legendary Dwayne Johnson helping out as an an executive producer. It feels like an unlikely duo, but it seriously works.
Fighting With My Family has classic British humour and a familiar grittiness to it, reminding me why I adore British cinema so much. There are clear tonal shifts between the UK and US, emphasising the cultural differences and how out of her depth Bevis felt at first. This is where a lot of the humour comes into play too, as a pale, pierced Norwich girl sticks out like a sore thumb amongst blonde, bronzed models. As Saraya steps into the world of WWE with the ring name “Paige”, she has to face numerous obstacles that are both mentally and physically challenging. As it happens, her identity is one of them, and she soon becomes an outcast.
Yes, this film is about one girl’s rise to the top of the WWE ranks, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s about family, class divide, jealousy, among others. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Saraya and Zak, as there’s a clear case of sibling rivalry here. Whilst Saraya succeeds, Zak is dealing with a whole host of personal issues whilst wallowing in his own sadness. This is jealousy on a massive scale, causing a rift between the siblings, and in turn, the rest of the family.
I loved the overall message that the film delivers: that it’s important to always be true to yourself, and do what makes you great. Whether that’s big or small, you can make an impact. This is something that Zak eventually learns whilst he’s feeling jealous of his sister’s success. The familial bond is so strong in this film, and it’s a truly beautiful thing to witness. They might be slightly bonkers, dysfunctional and off the wall, but they’d do anything to support each other. Isn’t that wonderful?