Directed by: Stephen Merchant
Written by: Stephen Merchant
Starring: Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn
As children, we receive inspiration to pursue careers based on the people around us or what we see on television. For myself, I grew up watching the New York Yankees and wanted to be a professional baseball player. With that dream, for most people, a sobering moment arrives where we realize that we will never reach it. For me, it came when I joined a little league team and had the prestigious statistics of 1 walk, 1 stolen base, 1 foul ball, and the rest were strikeouts. I did not have what it takes to reach that goal. This film takes on that similar idea of a dream being unattainable for some but a possibility for others.
Saraya (Florence Pugh) and her brother Zak (Jack Lowdon) from a young age had a love for wrestling. Their parents have always been huge fans as well and their passion has progressed to them training individuals who want to get into wrestling. They partake in the independent wrestling scene of Norwich, England with the hopes of one day having the opportunity to join the pinnacle of the sport, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). When given the opportunity to try out, Saraya gets the call up while Zak is cut, which leads them both on two different journeys of forming their identity and how it relates to their dream.
As the title suggests, this story centers on family and the relationship between Saraya and Zak. While Saraya gets the call up to train and potentially join the WWE, Zak had the dream from a younger age and truly believed he could make it. This naturally would cause tension between the siblings as they both traverse paths that challenge their identity. This film gets its emotional potential from this strong relationship. Through the hardships of their relationship throughout the film, sibling love remains that ties them together and what allows this film to succeed.
While being a story about the sibling relationship, this film also focuses on Saraya’s battle to reach the WWE and Florence Pugh excels in the role. Saraya has to compete with other women, who she deems to be inferior because she sees them as models trying to show off their bodies instead of the love of the sport. It stems from her upbringing and the impact of her parents portrayed brilliantly by Lena Headey and Nick Frost. For Saraya the path to the top not only accomplishes her dreams but also the collective aspiration for her entire family. Paige (Saraya’s wrestling name) goes through her internal battles but also receives the most difficult challenges from her coach, Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn). Morgan pushes Saraya to her limits and gives her every opportunity to back out and quit. Vaughn gives a very strong performance where he doesn’t rely on being too comedic because the character does not call for it. It demonstrates his development into being an actor breaking from just comedic roles and quickly became one of the stronger aspects of the film.
Fighting with my Family has plenty of heart and some inspiring moments, but it did fall into some very bland sports cliches at different points where it ran through the motions, as it just needed to get to the conclusion of the story. This story aligns with the real story of the wrestler Paige, but some liberties were taken, especially towards the end of the film. I do not follow wrestling as much as I did when I was younger, but I know the basic beats of how characters get introduced. Some moments seemed out of place, but it does not take away from the final product being a really good film. Every actor in the film plays an important part in the story and none of them are wasted. The film has a very strong thematic throughline and it shows the physical rigor required to make it in professional wrestling. Not as glamorous as we might imagine it as kids.
This will stand as a very enjoyable film that can be watched by a family and it reminds us that we can strive to reach our dreams but sometimes that is not our destiny. Saraya and Zak both started wanting the same dream but where they both end up suits them both and highlights where they excel in life. Plenty of laughs, beautiful emotional connections, and some nice cameo appearances by Dwayne Johnson culminate into a good viewing experience.