Film review - Fighting With My Family

Stephen Merchant's Fighting With My Family has no right to be this good, this funny or this endearing.

By Ethan Jones
Friday, 8th March 2019, 2:48 pm
Updated Friday, 8th March 2019, 3:53 pm
A scene from Fighting With My Family
A scene from Fighting With My Family

I will confess, my knowledge of the wrestling world boils down to me knowing The Rock exists, knowing John Cena exists and knowing the word 'fake' doesn't exist, because if you say otherwise then the fire and fury of a thousand dying stars will smite you down.

But in spite of my emotional apathy towards spandex, this is a movie first, wrestling commercial second - so I can still poke it with a stick while maintaining (some) dignity.

Before this movie, I knew next to nothing about WWE superstar Paige: so-much-so that her name was but a whisper to me, and that is being very generous.

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Luckily, Florence Pugh's committed and thoroughly engaging - both on a comedic and emotional level - turn has helped change that, and though I will never, ever, willingly watch WWE so long as blood runs through my veins (no offence to those that do ... but also no thanks), I applaud what Paige represents in this film: hope, or at least a cynically British version of it.

This very funny (in the most darkly British sense) tale chronicles both the vigorous training regimen of WWE superstar Paige and the familial hardships surrounding her journey, cleverly juxtaposing the big, bold and fabulously bright theatrics of the spandex-soaked Wrestling world with a deeply personal dramedy about a remarkably close family that is nearly broken in two.

Nothing in this setup is new or revolutionary, and the admittedly cliche and predictable nature of it is by far my biggest gripe.

But at the same time, I don't think I care.

Every aspect of this movie - from its committed cast to its endearing screenplay - is earnest to the core, and though certain elements feel very - very - forced in (namely The Rock, who floats in and out the film spontaneously like a bald-angel) for branding and marketing's sake, the ultimate feeling you leave with is one of resounding satisfaction.

Fighting With My Family, for all its predictability, stands up for the little guy; the 'freak'; the 'outcast'; the 'weirdo'; the dodgy 16-year-old who writes film reviews for the internet amidst his GCSEs, and has seen Casablanca an unhealthy number of times.

It actually goes one step further to encapsulate anyone who has a dream: which is relatable to everyone, whether you're a high-school student approaching the crossroads that'll dictate your future, an incredibly overpaid footballer who wants to buy Alaska or a kid who aspires to write film reviews for a living.

Ultimately, no matter who you are, this film supports you and your quest and advocates you 'fight' for it, through thick and thin; good and bad; ups and downs. It's a movie about endurance in the face of adversary, sticking (not fighting) with your family and being the first you - and there was me thinking it was just about wrestling!