Movie Review: “Fighting with My Family”
Fighting with My Family
Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) has dreamed about being a professional wrestler since she was a child. That dream is also shared by her brother Zak (Jack Lowden). The two come from a wrestling family in England, and have fantasized about making it in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) since they were kids when they saw wrestlers like The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) on TV. It is not an easy profession, but it is very hard to even get a tryout with the WWE. Saraya and Zak’s parents run a small wrestling promotion in England. Wrestling is their passion and they have passed that passion on to their children. Unfortunately, it is not a very well paying profession, unless you are lucky enough to get into the World Wrestling Entertainment.
The WWE is the biggest professional wrestling company in the world, but the road to get there is not an easy one. Saraya and Zak are young and they are hungry. They are lucky enough to land a tryout with the WWE, but when Saraya is accepted and Zak is not, a wedge is driven into the family. Saraya has a once in a lifetime opportunity as part of the WWE’s developmental program, but her brother has reached the end of his road. This is hard on the family, but the tryout was the easy part. Now Saraya has to prove that she has what it takes to ascend from the developmental program and make it to the big stage.
The Pros & Cons
Florence Pugh (+6pts)
Paige & The Family (+8pts)
Jack Lowden (+5pts)
Zak’s Students (-2pts)
Pro: Florence Pugh (+6pts)
Later in this review, I will get into what I liked about the character of Saraya (also known as Paige). For now, all I will say is that the woman had a lot going on in her life. She had a once in a lifetime shot, but with that came plenty of drama. What I am trying to get at, in a round about way, is that this was a complex character to play and I thought Florence Pugh did a really good job.
I was a big fan of WWE for almost ten years and stopped watching not long after Paige debuted, so I was familiar with her and her story. I say this to you, so that you can understand that (naturally) I would compare Florence Pugh’s performance to the real thing. Even in that context, I thought the actress did a great job. She was able to capture Paige’s hardcore attitude while also capturing her heart. I cannot imagine the stress that would come with having to play a well-known, currently living person. As well as the added stress of knowing that person’s fan base would come out to see your movie, and would most likely judge you on the accuracy of your performance. Fortunately, I thought Florence Pugh did a really good job and delivered an accurate depiction of Paige.
Con: Wrestling (-3pts)
I think the filmmakers struggled a bit, with how much to show or explain wrestling. It felt like they tried to stay away from it as much as possible, in the hopes of not alienating people in the audience who were unfamiliar with professional wrestling. I think that this was, overall, the right choice but I thought that there were a couple areas where this movie would have benefited from explaining professional wrestling more. Explaining both of these areas would have made Paige’s story feel more special. The first area was how unique Paige’s road to the Divas championship was. I do not want to spoil anything if you are unfamiliar with it, but I had to explain (to the person I was with) why it was special in a company where the end results are “fixed”. With that in mind, I doubt that my movie companion was alone in their confusion, so the filmmakers should have explained this better to make the story more impactful with general audiences.
The second area was what the Diva’s division was like before Paige came to the WWE. The film touches on the fact that women in wrestling were basically either professional models, dancers, or cheerleaders that would run around in bikini’s and slap each other. There were always one or two women who’s were exceptions to this, but for the most part, they never did anything like what the men were doing in the ring. When I was at an event and the women were wrestling, that was usually my opportunity to run to the bathroom or get food (and that was not a unique idea, as many people would do the same thing). Now Paige did not change things on her own, but her debut was the beginning of a wave of new female wrestlers who could wrestle just as good as (if not even better than) a lot of the men. I felt that the movie should have focused a bit more on that.
Pro: Paige & The Family (+8pts)
As I mentioned before, Paige is a character with a hardcore attitude, but Saraya has a big heart when it comes to her family and her dream. I really enjoyed learning more about Saraya’s journey, and I really enjoyed learning more about the family that she came from. She came from a wrestling family, but no one in the family has ever had an opportunity in the WWE like she has. While it is very much her dream, she is carrying the dreams of her entire family with her. I liked this element of the story, because it is unique to Paige (as opposed to other underdog stories). She is not just doing it for herself, which is something that added an extra layer of pressure to this underdog story.
Additionally, I just liked the dynamic between the members of Saraya’s family. The Knight family is an incredibly unique family. The family scenes provided a lot of comedy, a lot of drama, and a lot of heart. Ricky Knight (Nick Frost) is Saraya’s father and was one of the main comedic reliefs of the movie, but I always felt that he was a very caring father who was living vicariously through his daughter’s opportunity. Saraya’s story was as interesting as it was because of the family she came from, and I enjoyed every scene involving this family because they were entertaining and were the emotional center of Saraya’s story.
Con: Predictable (-3pts)
As I mentioned before, I was familiar with Paige and her story before seeing this movie. With that in mind, I obviously knew where this story was going, but it would be unfair for me to fault the movie for that. I felt that this movie would be predictable, even if you never heard of Paige before. It has the same issue that most underdog movies have. You think the filmmakers are going to make an underdog story in which the underdog fails? Sure, it is possible but, out of all of the people who try to become professional wrestlers in the WWE, you think the filmmakers would make a movie about one of the many who did not make it? There were a few moments in the movie where we were supposed to be concerned that she may not make it, but I did not feel like that feeling resonated with anyone in the audience.
Pro: Jack Lowden (+5pts)
Jack Lowden was the actor who played Zak, Saraya‘s brother. It was interesting to see the opposite storylines between the two characters. How does a character feel if they get a once in a lifetime opportunity for something they have been dreaming about since they were a child? How does a character feel if they have the same dream, but are rejected? How does each character feel to see their sibling (who they love) on the opposite side of the same dream?
Saraya and Zak were on opposite journeys, and it was interesting to see what that did to each of them individually as well as what it did to their bond as brother and sister. As interesting as I thought their relationship was, I thought Jack Lowden did a great job in this complex role. Everything he ever dreamed of was ripped out from under him. At the same time, he had to watch his sister get the opportunity that he did not. The character is bitter, depressed, but he loves his sister and Jack Lowden did a great job of conveying all of that to the audience.
Con: Zak’s Students (-2pts)
This was an element of the story that I wished got a little more focus. It does not have a huge impact on the story, but would have given more weight to what Zak was doing while his sister was in the WWE’s training program. Saraya touches on how important Zak’s role was (as a teacher), but I never felt like the filmmakers justified that statement. I definitely do not think the filmmakers should have spent a ton of time focusing on Zak’s students, but it would have been nice to have seen a little more of the students, as well as the impact that Zak had on their lives.
Grade: B+ (86pts)
I was looking forward to Fighting with My Family, as I was familiar with Paige and her story. I knew some details of her story, but was interested to know more. She came from such a unique family and I really enjoyed every scene involving the family. Nick Frost and Lena Headey were great as Saraya’s (Paige’s real name) parents, but the movie’s focus is definitely on the two kids. I was really interested in this story because both Saraya and Zak shared the same dream, but one made it to the WWE while the other did not. This adds a ton of drama, a ton of tension, and I enjoyed seeing how the two characters dealt with that. On top of that, Florence Pugh did a great job as Paige, and Jack Lowden did a great job as Zak.
Unfortunately, this movie suffered from a few minor problems regarding its focus. I felt that Zak’s students needed more focus to convey the importance of what Zak was doing. I also thought that there were a few areas where I benefited from being familiar with the WWE, because I had context that other audience members did not. Neither of these were significant issues, but the movie’s biggest problem was being a pretty predictable underdog story. Whether you have heard of Paige or not, you will have a pretty easy time seeing where this story is headed. Fortunately, it is still a movie that you will enjoy. It is not amazing, but it was filled with interesting characters, strong performances, and I had a really good time watching it.