Fighting With My Family – Film Review by Katie McCann
Director: Stephen Merchant
Writer: Stephen Merchant
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Lena Headey, Vince Vaughn
My knowledge of the WWE is limited to what I gathered second hand through my wrestling mad cousins around the age of 8 years old. Names like the Rock, The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin stick out in my mind along with the images of people being thrown around a ring or hit with a chair. What doesn’t stick out in my memory are any female wrestlers. Perhaps that was why I never took much of an interest in it. What Fighting With My Family aims to do is bring the rise of superstar female wrestler Paige to the mainstream and shine a light on her extraordinary rise to fame and reshaping of the male dominated sport.
Saraya-Jade Bevis was 13 years old when she first steps into the ring, when a slot was left empty in her family’s wrestling show. From that moment on she became obsessed with professional wrestling, taking on the stage name Paige after her favourite TV witch. When she is invited along with her brother Zac to audition for the WWE their dream of becoming a superstar brother-sister wrestling team is quickly smashed when Paige is selected to head to America alone. Now, she must figure out who she is without her family, hold her own amongst the ex-model, bikini-clad, wannabe wrestlers around her and follow her dreams on her own terms.
This is a movie based on a true story. We know how it’s all going to end, but just like in pro wrestling even though the outcome is predestined it’s the moves displayed along the way that make Fighting With My Family a genuine treat. Stephen Merchant (the Office/ Extras) pours a lot of heart and laughs into the piece with some brilliant casting that raises the film above its sometimes thin material. Florence Pugh is an absolute joy as Paige and Nick Frost as her larger than life father, Patrick, steals every moment (at the end when we see a clip of the real Patrick we realise he is spot on in capturing a man every bit as charismatic as his famous daughter).
There are times that the film feels a bit on the nose. Hitting the audience over the head too much with the emotions it wants you to feel and towards the middle the film drags a bit. Yet, the last third of it proves to be a truly inspiring story with strong feminist undertones that are clearly a cornerstone of the real life Paige’s approach to wrestling. Her arrival in the ring at 18 and subsequent triumphs over the last 8 years have changed the perception of female wrestling and helped usher in the WWE Women’s Revolution. For a woman now only 26, her legacy is one that will long outlast her years in the ring and Paige’s story is defiantly one worth telling.
Perhaps if 8-year-old me had the opportunity to see her in the ring back in the day my interest in wrestling would still be alive and well. But one thing is for sure, Fight With My Family is a surprise treat for wresting and non-wrestling fans alike.