I binged watch the latest season of Glow this weekend. It took me a while to get round to it but I absolutely loved it. It’s such a fun show and is making me believe that, if I worked a bit harder, I could definitely be a wrestler. I couldn’t but it’s nice to dream I guess. But I am in the middle of a bit of a wrestling period at the moment. So, when I realised I wouldn’t get the chance to watch something new for this week’s review, I decided it was finally time to watch this film. I’d tried to see it when it was out at the cinema but we couldn’t find a suitable time I don’t know what we saw instead but it was probably something silly. It was quite possibly Alita: Battle Angel and we all know how that went.
I can’t say that I was into wrestling as a kid. It wasn’t the kind of thing my family was into so I never watched it. I had friends who were so I wasn’t completely clueless but I don’t think I’d ever watched a wrestling match. So, until this film came out, I had no idea who Paige was and why I should care. Still, it was written and directed by Stephen Merchant and starred Nick Frost. I was into it. And, since watching GLOW I feel like I’m super into wrestling these days. Although, not in the sense that I actually watch it or anything.
Fighting With My Family is based on the real-life story of the Norwich born wrestler who was plucked from her home and became a world-famous champion. As the youngest daughter of two wrestlers, Raya (Florence Pugh) has wrestling in her blood. When she is a girl, she enters her first wrestling match against her older brother Zak (Jack Lowden). The pair are working as professional wrestlers and training te youth of Norwich to become the next generation of wrestlers. Their parents (Nick Frost and Lena Headey) are supportive of the children and send their tape to the WWE. Unfortunately, only Raya is picked so she must head to Florida alone.
Raya finds that training to be a champion is more difficult than she thought and, without the support of her brother, she struggles to find her place. At the same time, Zak must come to terms with the fact that his sister might just achieve everything he has ever dreamed of whilst he is stuck in Norwich. As the tension between the family grows, Raya finds herself under increasing pressure from her training. The world of WWE is a world away from wrestling with her family in Norwich. Can she prove to her trainer (Vince Vaughn) that she’s as good as she thinks she is?
Wrestling With My Family is a sweet and charming film. It is driven by the central family dynamic which focuses more on the work-class heart of gold storyline than the violent criminal past one. Nick Frost and Lena Headey are fun as Raya’s wrestling parents. They have an interesting chemistry and keep the film from falling too far into the emotional family melodrama. Although, it is Jack Lowden as Zak who really gets the meaty part here. Zak has to deal with his dreams shattering whilst his sister, who initially wasn’t even a wrestling fan, get chosen over him. Watching him unravel lifts this film beyond a fairly basic British underdog story.
Though I have to say, I’m more disappointed in this film than I’d thought I would be. There isn’t a lot going on to really get your teeth into. Florence Pugh is a great performer but we never really get a sense of Raya. Yes, we see her pushing herself in her training but this is all achieved through a standard Hollywood training montage. We don’t learn a lot about her aside from one underwhelming moment of heart. It’s disappointing that the actor was wasted. Especially considering how interesting the real-life Paige is. It could have been so much more. I didn’t really have a connection with Paige so, despite loving the idea of her, I was never really invested in the narrative here.
It seems that this film was all too safe. It’s a big advertisement for wrestling in general. Something that gets out-of-hand considering how often Dwayne Johnson turns up playing himself. It’s hammy and not as fun as the film exec who suggested it thought it would be. The whole narrative plays out like every sports film we’ve ever seen and doesn’t bring anything new to the party. We see Paige underestimate her fellow trainees before realising they’re humans and befriending them. This doesn’t feel like a Britsh film and it certainly doesn’t feel like a Stephen Merchant film. This is covered in the stink of a classic Hollywood cash-grab. It’s very disappointing.