Full disclosure — I think wrestling is silly and do not understand the appeal, but the best sports movies transcend the sport and tell stories you can fall in love with.
Fighting with my Family tells the true story of the Knight family, a low-on-money, high-on-love family of wrestling fanatics in Norwich, England.
Mom (Lena Headley) and dad (Nick Frost) both come from troubled backgrounds speckled with prison time, homelessness and alcoholism, but in finding each other managed to save themselves through wrestling.
They now run an amateur league and teach kids how to wrestle, and when youngest daughter Saraya (Florence Pugh) is forced into the ring with her older brother Zak (Jack Lowden) their natural ability and love of the sport spark a big dream – to compete in the WWE.
They spend years training and finally get their chance to audition. In a heartbreaking turn of events only Saraya is chosen to participate in the next level of training.
At this point the film splits and follows their journeys concurrently – Saraya with her dyed jet-black hair and lip ring trying to fit in with models and cheerleaders turned wrestlers in a sunny Florida training camp, and Zak at home in dreary Norwich spiraling downward in jealousy and disappointment.
If you don’t follow wrestling and don’t know how things turn out for our plucky heroine (who changes her name to Paige for stage purposes) resist the urge to google it and simply enjoy this classic underdog story.
Fighting with my Family was written by Stephen Merchant, a British comic best known as the co-creator of the British version of The Office.
His deft handling of the script makes for a story that is both witty and funny but also contains heart-wrenching moments of vulnerability.
Florence Pugh is formidable as Saraya/Paige, hiding depth and sensitivity behind her tough Goth exterior, and Jack Lowden’s portrayal of Zak’s crushing disappointment is so real it will make your heart ache for him.
Vince Vaughan as the classic tough-as-nails coach with a secret heart of gold coach gives the best performance we’ve seen from him in years.
Lena Headley, Nick Frost and a ragtag group of wrestling students add welcome moments of hilarity. And The Rock, Dwayne Johnson himself, makes an extended cameo – what more could you want in a movie?
Everyone loves to root for the underdog, and this group of shaggy, rough-and-tumble oddballs is impossible not to love.
Resistance is futile; you’ll love fighting with this family.