FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (12)
D: Stephen Merchant
Lionsgate/MGM/Film4/The Ink Factory/Seven Bucks/WWE (Kevin Misher & Michael J. Luisi)
UK/USA 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 2019
W: Stephen Merchant [based on the documentary "The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family"]
DP: Remi Adefarasin
Ed: Nancy Richardson
Mus: Vik Sharma
Florence Pugh (Soraya 'Paige' Knight), Jack Lowden (Zak 'Zodiac' Knight), Nick Frost (Patrick 'Rowdy Ricky' Knight), Lena Headey (Julia 'Sweet Soraya' Knight), Vince Vaughn (Hutch Morgan), Dwayne Johnson (himself)
Throughout the 1990's I was a fan of WWE wrestling (then called WWF), and though my interest has waned since, it's still remained as popular as ever with a huge worldwide fan base. It's a sport which has a history of being scripted (Kayfabe is the appropriate terminology), but the larger than life characters who participate have still earned the right to be called athletes, as the nature of the sport can be incredibly dangerous if you're not in peak physical condition and has, in the past, resulted in serious injuries and even deaths of those who mean to entertain.
This biographical comedy took inspiration from a documentary about Soraya Knight, a British teenager from a family of amateur wrestlers who was noticed by The Rock (Dwayne Johnson's alter ego) during her training to be a WWE superstar and went on to become the Women's Wrestling Champion.
Even if you don't have a huge interest in the sport, Fighting With My Family has a more about it to entertain throughout its running time, and though it does follow the same basic templates of other sports movies, it's held together due to good acting performances, especially Florence Pugh with an excellent lead performance. The accents are clearly more West Country than Norfolk, but any ears which aren't British probably wouldn't know the difference.
Creative licence also plays a part, since the real story of Soraya Knight's rise to fame probably wouldn't be too family friendly, and with WWE and Dwayne Johnson serving as producers, it's not going to show the business or individual in any negative light, even portraying the sport as real rather than kayfabe. That aside, it has a good message of triumph over adversity, playing to your strengths and being your own person. On the flip side, Soraya's brother Zak, also an amateur wrestler, keeps trying to impress the powers that be at WWE, only to be told that he doesn't cut the mustard, and to seek another career before he causes injury to himself or others. The contrasting trajectories of the journeys the sister and brother take provide the film's major conflict, while clever editing and camera angles provide the stunt doubles to do their work inside the ring in the handful of scenes which actually feature wrestling.
Far more enjoyable than it probably should be, and though much is dramatised, it's a good coming-of-age tale set in an environment that hasn't really been represented on film before. There are some flaws, much like the sport itself, but it's quite an easy film to sit back and enjoy.