RogerBW's Blog

Fighting With My Family 02 July 2019

2019 drama/comedy, dir. Stephen Merchant, Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden; IMDb / allmovie. Siblings Raya and Zak Knight come from a wrestling family in Norfolk, but is that going to be enough to get them to the top?

No, of course it isn't. It never is, in these things. Still, this is based on real events, so we know that Raya will go on to be Paige; that's not where the tension is, because (especially with the WWE's involvement in the film) you know it's going to be a standard rags-to-riches with stumbles along the way. The tension comes much more from how her brother copes with not being picked.

And it's Jack Lowden as Zak who, for all his relative lack of screen time, is the real acting star here, someone who's had his dream taken away and now has to decide how he's going to live his life.

There's a welcome turn from Nick Frost as Wrestling Dad, at long last in a role that isn't "bumbling fat boy"… all right, it's not far from that role. But it's a start. Lena Headey can of course play Wrestling Mum in her sleep; she's actually good at this acting thing. But she makes a decent job of an underwritten part.

As for Raya, Florence Pugh makes a good fist of it; the storyline is sometimes obvious (particularly the way the Mean Girls turn out to be a construct of Raya's anxieties, because everyone in WWE is just a great person), but it's good to see straightforward female friendships on screen, and even better that there's no messing about with a love interest. (Well, the real Saraya-Jade Bevis didn't have one at this point, but that wouldn't have stopped a filmmaker sufficiently determined to push all the cliché buttons.)

The whole "but it's all fake" thing is addressed briefly. Sure, the matches are choreographed; but the athleticism is still real. (It does somewhat defang the film's climactic moments if you still remember that point, though.)

I'm not a wrestling fan. I'm not any sort of sports fan. But this film manages to make wrestling interesting, showing a real drive to succeed and some small part of what's needed to make the thing work.

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