The idea for the film came about, when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson watched a documentary one sleepless night. That documentary was ‘The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family’. The next morning he called his good friend, The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant and pitched the idea. Merchant loved it and started writing the script immediately.
Paige and her brother Zak (Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden) were born into a wrestling family. They’ve spent their entire lives dreaming about leaving their small town of Norwich and heading to America, to join the WWE. Their parents (Nick Frost and Lena Heady) run a local wrestling club and have raised them to be champions. The pair both get called for WWE try outs, but only Paige makes the grade. She then heads off to Florida for training, whilst Zak is left in Norwich.
Although Stephen Merchant has been writing/directing films and TV for nearly 20 years, this is his first time going solo and he shines. His signature razor-sharp dialogue is present throughout. Fighting With My Family is the first great film of 2019, given that it’s Merchant’s baby, I went in expecting a feel-good, character-based comedy. This is much deeper than that. The laughs come thick and fast, but the film isn’t afraid to tone down the comedic elements, when the story calls for it and it. The dialogue and characters always feel authentic and, it never falls foul to any sports biopic tropes. There’s no unnecessary romantic subplot, even the “mean girls” cliché is wonderfully subverted.
This is also quite possibly the most realistic sibling relationship ever put on screen. Pugh and Lowden are instantly believable as brother and sister, their equal respect and jealously for each other is perfectly balanced.
Merchant has crafted a wonderful film, that excellently reflects the highs and lows that come with chasing your dreams, but it also teaches us that even if you don’t quite achieve what you’ve wanted. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. This film will appeal to both wrestling fans and those, like me-who’ve never seen a match.