British actor Stephen Merchant brings the story of WWE Diva to the big screen in Fighting with My Family from MGM Pictures. The film opens up in Norwich, England with a young Saraya Bevis interrupting her older brother Zak, watching his favorite wrestling program King of the Ring. Saraya wants to watch Charmed which leads to the two siblings starting a wrestling match. Surprisingly, the sibling’s parents Patrick (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey) encourage the two, which boosts Saraya’s confidence. Rick later lets them know they have, they have a wrestling match later that night, which Saraya wins.
Some years later Saraya (Florence Pugh) is wrestling as Britani Knight, while Zak (Jack Lowden) wrestles as Zak Zodiac. The siblings also use their free time to train some of the local youth in wrestling as a way to keep them off the streets. Fate intervenes when WWE trainer Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn) informs the family that Zak and Saraya can try out at an upcoming SmackDown taping at the O2 in London. During the tryouts, Saraya is informed by Hutch, there’s already a “Britani”, so she decides to use the name, Paige. The siblings also meet Dwayne Johnson (portraying himself), who gives them great advice. After grueling tryouts, Paige makes the cut while Zak doesn’t, which leads Zak into a depression. Paige then makes her way to America to try and earn a spot on the WWE roster, while Zak stays behind in the UK.
While my son has a love for wrestling, I myself have never even casually enjoyed the sport. However biopics, are one of my favorite film genres, so I was looking forward to seeing Fighting with My Family. Newcomer Florence Pugh is delightful in the lead role of Paige. One of the key elements for success in a biopic, the talent portraying the subject. I firmly believe that acting should take precedence over the look. While Pugh doesn’t necessarily look like Paige, she knocks the role out of the park. Throughout the film, I was rooting for Paige and I identified with her struggles for acceptance.
I also enjoyed the arc that Stephen Merchant’s script gives Zak. Instead of underwriting Zak, we get a fleshed-out character. Losing out on a dream can be the end of the world for any man and as Zak, Jack Lowden delivers a great performance. One of the best moments in the film occurs when Zak has a face-off with his sister Paige when she returns from training for Christmas break.
Given that Fighting with My Family is a biopic, there are a few clichés here and there. Paige wanting to quit, the training montage set to rock music and the tough coach who ultimately has a heart of gold. Thankfully the acting by Pugh allows you to overlook the clichés and keep on rooting for our heroine. I also want to give kudos to Merchant, for not having a romantic interest for Paige, as that may have hurt the film.
Fighting with My Family is highly recommended even if you aren’t a fan of wrestling. With heart, humor and some impressive wrestling scenes; Fighting with My Family is a good old-fashioned crowd pleaser.