When you review movies with any regularity, periodically you may find yourself covering a film that discusses or celebrates a topic outside your comfort zone. For me, one such film is this year’s Fighting with My Family, written and directed by Stephen Merchant. It’s a biographical comedy-drama delineating the early career of WWE wrestling icon Saraya-Jade “Paige” Bevis, who was predominately portrayed by Florence Pugh while Tessa Blanchard stepped in to perform Pugh’s stunts.


Fighting with My Family begins showing Paige — then without her now famous wrestling alias — as a child, discovering her love for the sport. We also meet her immediate family (save for her eldest brother, who was in jail), with Nick Frost and Lena Headey respectively playing her father and mother, Patrick and Julia Knight. Once Paige’s passion is established, we’re thrust forward several years, seeing Paige and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) as young adults bearing heavy aspirations of honoring their family’s wrestling creed. The siblings are invited to try out for the WWE with other hopeful combatants, where they’re all judged and belittled by talent trainer Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn). Here, Paige settles on her professional wrestling name (it’s an homage to her favorite Charmed character) and becomes the only one invited by Morgan to accompany him to the United States.

The next phase of Paige’s journey sees her train alongside three women hoping to join the circuit, none of whom have prior wrestling experience like Paige but were more successful than her nevertheless. Zak, meanwhile, went into a deep depression for failing his one opportunity to join the WWE. Fighting with My Family is at its best when it’s exploring these elements, showcasing Paige work through her strained relationships or the hardships that come with preparing for professional wrestling. This is all benefited greatly by the cast’s heartfelt performances, especially Pugh’s.

Ultimately, my grievances — unfair they may be — with Fighting with My Family are when it reminds me of how integral wrestling is to its premise; while I can find humor the theatrics that come with wrestling, it as a sport mostly endures as something unappealing and gruesome to watch, and the moments when we see performers spar were the least engaging material Fighting dealt with. Still, it’s notable how dedicated Merchant and his team were to honoring the legacies of its subjects (they utilized archival footage when appropriate and acted out Paige’s landmark title match) and, despite a somewhat romanticized representation of the WWE stage, were successful in helping me usher in a greater appreciation for how wrestling could appeal to others.

All of the special features were also valuable in weening me into this world, particularly the eight-minute “A Family’s Passion: A Making-Of” feature.

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