A review of Fighting with my Family by Ahmed Zayani
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me on a more then superficial basis that I love professional wrestling. I have long considered the sport of kings to be my first true love & I will stand by that claim regardless. I have been enamoured by the spectacle since I first watched Wrestle mania VI on Bahrain’s Channel 44, and by the time the curtain drew on Hulk Hogan’s battle against The Ultimate Warrior I was a fan for life. Throughout the years, my love for wrestling has been a constant in my life; it is one of the few things that I focus on on a daily basis and my day would feel incomplete if I don’t watch a match, or catch a video or a show that somehow involves it. I have also been fortunate enough to attend a number of shows around the globe, including being onscreen during the Money in the Bank go-Home Raw in July 2011. Hell, the first gift my wife ever got me was a replica of the classic Reggie Parks winged eagle belt, which is part of the reason she eventually became my wife. The fact of the matter is that I love wrestling with every fiber of my being and I feel that no matter what life throws in my way, that would remain a constant throughout my days.
Directed by Stephen Merchant (who also wrote the film) Fighting with My Family is the latest project from WWE Films and tells the story of Saraya Bevis (played by Florence Pugh) better known to wrestling fans as Paige, as she navigates through the treacherous waters leading towards wrestling glory in the WWE, while trying to maintain a relationship with her family back home. If the only reason you are interested in this film is because of Dwayne Johnson’s involvement, then be warned that he only appears in the film for two scenes, both of which are shown almost in their entirety in the trailers. Not that you’ll be missing much because as with his other films The Rock’s acting is nothing to write home about, and if anything he further cements the notion that having all the charisma in the world won’t help make you a competent actor. That said, outside of the “Most Electrifying Man in all of Entertainment” the acting in Fighting with My Family is actually top notch. All those involved brought their A-game to the proceeding and took their roles seriously, with the antiquated notion that wrestling is a sideshow being in their rear view mirrors. Both Florence Pugh and Vince Vaughn gave memorable performances while Jack Lowden (who’s a name to keep an eye on) and Nick Frost stoke the show as Zak and Ricky Knight respectively. The film does also present us with a relatable and compelling narrative as Paige’s road to superstardom plays in front of us. Any of us who ever had an outlandish dream and was told it was too ridiculous to come true can relate to her trials and tribulations, and we are that much invested in the proceedings, as a result. Stephen Merchant once again proves himself as a writer who is a master at crafting a compelling narrative and unique characters.
However, for all the praise I would place on Merchant as a writer, the man is far from being a capable director. The production felt uneven, with many scenes coming off as being amateurish and more at home in your run of the mill straight-to-video cash grab rather than a festival feature. The film was better together in the first half when the focus was on the family in Norwich and came off the rails once Paige’s WWE journey kicked into high gear. Also, while this won’t be a big issue to casual audiences, as a wrestling fan I felt that the inconsistencies were too jarring to maintain my focus on the show, the worst of which came during the climax where the switching between the recreated event and the actual material was embarrassingly bad and in line with something you’d find on a random mark’s YouTube page.
All that said, I still did have a good time watching Fighting with My Family. By no means is this a great film and its faults are too big to ignore but it did give us some solid performances, a compelling storyline, and an opportunity to revel in the sport of kings on the big screen.
For more cinematic intel, follow Ahmed on @theahmedzayani
The Five: Favorite Films About Wrestling
- The Wrestler
- The Resurrection of Jake the Snake
- Nacho Libre
- Ready to Rumble