I’ll level with you, I thought this film would be absolutely rubbish. I’m not writer and director Stephen Merchant’s greatest fan, and I like wrestling even less, so this will be interesting.
What I wasn’t expecting was Fighting With My Family to have so much heart. As sister Paige, Florence Pugh (“The Commuter“, “The Little Drummer Girl (TV)”), gets picked up by the WWE, Merchant switches things by showing what it’s like for brother Zak, Jack Lowden (“Dunkirk“, “Denial“), someone who’s dreamt of being a professional wrestler his whole life, get left behind.
Whilst this is a good take on the story, it does mean the film can feel a little confused as to who it’s actually about. It feels like it’s meant to be about Paige, the girl from Norwich who went on to be a superstar, but with brother Zak getting, what feels like, equal weighting, is it really about him?
The whole Knight family, from father Ricky, Nick Frost (“Slaughterhouse Rulez“, “Tomb Raider“), to mother Julia, Lena Headey (“Game Of Thrones (TV)”, “Pride And Prejudice And Zombies“), are wrestlers, running an amateur league out of Norwich.
Whilst Paige only really got hooked at age 13, it was Zak who everyone thought had what it takes. The boy who had been wrestling since he could walk. But it wasn’t to be, just like it hadn’t been for his elder brother, who took it badly and ended up in jail.
As Paige is off being trained to be the next big thing, and eventually go-on to become the youngest ever Diva’s Champion, Zak is left back home, teaching young kids how to wrestle, even teaching a blind kid how to wrestle.
At first, he doesn’t take it well, and he isn’t there when Paige needs him the most. She doesn’t understand why he is acting like he is, she doesn’t see him down and upset. But she needs him, and he needs her, both need to show each other what the other one can’t see in front of them.
It’s a funny film with great performances all round, Frost , Headey, Pugh and Lowden all perform brilliantly. Bringing fun and heart throughout the movie.
Fighting With My Family does have more of a TV movie feel about it, a good TV movie don’t get me wrong, but a TV movie nonetheless. It’s a touch too sweet at times and there are too many frustrating moments when you know our protagonist is going to get over whatever hurdle Merchant has concocted, but still he makes you watch as she stumbles and freezes, something that doesn’t appear to have actually happened.
Dwayne Johnson (“Skyscraper“, “Rampage“) pops up in a few places, he also acted as producer for the movie, whilst Vince Vaughn (“Brawl In Cell Block 99“, “Hacksaw Ridge“) is a strange choice as the WWE coach who gets to pick the next star.
Vaughn has quite a big part to play in the movie but he seems strangely subdued and, whilst we are told his backstory, it’s hard to know quite why we’re told it, what bearing it has on what we’re watching or why he’s acting the way he is. It seems only there to show why he didn’t pick Zak, but that decision is explained plenty.
That aside I’m happy to be pleasantly surprised by Fighting With My Family. Frost, Headey, Pugh and Lowden all shine and, whilst you may leave wanting to know more about Paige, you will at least enjoy what you’ve seen.