By Kaylee Brewster
Three out of four
Stepping into the ring of film biopics, Fighting with My Family is the underdog that is able to stay strong, keep fighting and pin down a win.
Hollywood has told the rags to riches stories of musicians, dancers, Olympians and athletes from football, baseball, basketball and soccer, but its been (mostly) quiet on the wrestling front, until now.
Based on a true story, Fighting with My Family starts with the Knight family: Ricky (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey) and their two kids, Zak (Jack Lowden) and Saraya (Florence Pugh). They are a wrestling family in Norwich, England. They wrestle as a family. They train as a family. They coach as a family.
Zak and Sarayas dream (as well as their parents) is to make it to the WWE (thats World Wrestling Entertainment for the uninitiated), the Hollywood-Super Bowl of wrestling. Finally, their moment arrives when Zak and Saraya are chosen for tryouts, but things dont go as planned. Saraya gets to move on to America for a chance at the big stage. Zak isnt chosen and must stay behind. The film then follows them both as their lives change forever.
What makes Fighting with My Family different from other stories of small-town-girl-plucked-from-obscurity-to-follow-her-dreams, is that it follows her brother as well.
Audiences see Saraya struggle in her training. She doesnt fit in her new world. The pale, black-haired goth girl with a British accent doesnt get along well with the other girls -- bleached-blonde, spray-tanned former models, dancers and cheerleaders. In the wrestling world, she stands out a bit too much. When shes not in physical agony from training, shes in emotional turmoil from missing her family.
Zak goes through a similar identity crisis. His whole life he has followed one dream, only to have it crushed. If that werent bad enough, he must watch as his sister lives out the life he wanted. He is angry, but trying to keep up appearances.
While Fighting with My Family could have followed only Sarayas story, telling both tales creates a more engaging narrative. You get training montages, mixed with Zaks decline. You wonder if Sarayas going to make it to the WWE and whether Zaks going to recover from his downward spiral.
Pugh and Lowdens acting give the characters and storyline even more of a punch. Audiences can find something in either character to relate to, from Sarayas homesickness, to Zaks disappointment, to the search for identity both undergo.
As a disclaimer, I dont follow wrestling, so perhaps the real thing is more exciting on TV than a reenactment on the big screen. However, I can say that this movie has the moves. The wrestling on camera is fun to watch as characters go from training to actual fights in the ring. Most importantly, it has characters you can root and feel for. Thats what makes Fighting with My Family a champion, that and Dwayne the Rock Johnsons cameo appearances as himself.