While I didn’t grow up watching the WWE or any other brand of wrestling and still haven’t seen a single episode of Raw or SmackDown, I have always been interested in biographical films and am a big fan of Netflix’s GLOW. Wrestling is one of those things that I’m not super interested in watching (probably because I didn’t watch it as a kid), but am very interested in viewing movies about and learning about the stories behind the wrestlers. To me, stories about wrestling are more interesting than the sport itself (as it is a very unique profession and many of the performers tend to have interesting personal stories). Even though I am not personally a wrestling fan, Fighting with My Family caught my attention due to its high ratings from critics and the fact that it is a biographical film. Overall, I found the film to be a good (but not great) biopic that has some very interesting and emotional storylines, but is also maybe a bit too long for the amount of material it has to offer. I definitely enjoyed watching it though and I think wrestling fans (especially those who love Paige) will like it even more than I did.
Fighting with My Family is based on a Channel 4 documentary with the similar name of The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family. Between this and Welcome to Marwen, there seems to be a recent trend of adapting documentaries into scripted films. This film is about retired WWE superstar Paige and her family, all of whom also wrestle and own a small British wrestling league known as the World Association of Wrestling. When the film begins, Saraya Knight (Paige’s real name) and her brother Zak have been wrestling since they were children and are currently trying to fulfill their lifelong dreams of joining the WWE. They eventually get a tryout and Paige is lucky enough to earn a contract. Despite Paige trying desperately to get Zak signed as well, he is passed over and his life starts to spiral into a deep depression. While the film is mainly about Paige’s ascent to the WWE (and her first ever match), it also deals with her entire family and especially her brother Zak’s depression after his dream is crushed.
Fighting with My Family provides almost equal amounts of comedy and drama, as well as a lot of heart. While the humor is a bit more sporadic than I was hoping for, when the film is funny, it is really humorous and it managed to get several hearty laughs from me. While the addition of The Rock feels like an excuse to add some random star power (Paige never even met him until after the events of this film), he does have two hilarious cameos. Nick Frost is a riot as usual, he’s a comedic actor that I am interested in watching just about everything he appears in because of how funny he is. Vince Vaughn has some great lines. There’s also a few funny cameos by Stephen Merchant (who also wrote and directed the film) and Julia Davis as an uptight British couple that are about as far from the Knights as you can get.
While the film is funny, the humor is a bit spread out. Fighting with My Family isn’t a film that is going to constantly have you laughing out loud. However, between the laughter the film has a lot of compelling drama and a huge amount of heart. Paige’s story isn’t super unique but it is still interesting and the family elements of the film are some of the highlights. While he isn’t the main focus of this film, I found myself drawn into Zak’s storyline. Jack Lowden does an incredible job with this role, you can just see the depression in his face after his hopes and dreams are crushed. It’s heartbreaking and almost had me crying. As a freak and weirdo myself, this entire family is exactly my kind of people. I find myself drawn to these types of people, “weird” people are just far more interesting to watch than those who aren’t. It helps that the entire family is played by great actors. I’ve already mentioned Lowden and Frost but Florence Pugh and Lena Headey are also great as Paige and her mother Sweet Saraya respectively. As I’ve already written, I’m not a wrestling fan so I don’t know how realistic Pugh’s portrayal of Paige is, but most people seem to think she is almost an identical twin of hers. Based on the interviews with Paige included in the extras, Pugh’s likeness and performance does seem to be quite good.
I really only have two relatively minor gripes with Fighting with My Family. The first is that even though the film’s run time of 108 minutes is pretty short, I think Fighting with My Family would have benefited from a bit more pruning. Outside of a few early scenes, the film only really covers a few years of Paige’s life from her WWE tryout to her first surprise match at WrestleMania. That isn’t a lot of material to fill 108 minutes. The film either should have continued further into Paige’s career (which was pretty short to begin with) or cut about ten minutes or so of content as the film does drag a bit at times. The other problem is something that is very common with biopics, the film does take quite a few liberties with the subject material. Many changes are made and a lot of material is skipped over. I understand that films need to make changes to heighten the drama and keep moviegoers interested but I think some of the decisions made actually hurt the film a bit. First of all, Paige apparently failed her first tryout with the WWE. Why skip over this? It would have just added to the drama when she succeeded on her second tryout. Fighting with My Family especially skips a lot of her time on NXT, something that might have been interesting to watch as she eventually became the NXT Women’s Champion. It certainly would have been more interesting to watch her climb the ranks of NXT than watching her train time and time again.
Fighting with My Family was released on Blu-ray (this release also includes a DVD and digital copy) and DVD. I received the Blu-ray copy for review from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. I note in most of my reviews that I am not an expert in video quality. I don’t know much about the technical side of it, I just know when something looks good or doesn’t. Fighting with My Family is absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray. The colors are sharp and the picture is crystal clear. However, outside of the WrestleMania scenes, there isn’t a lot of content that really shows off the video quality. This isn’t the kind of film that you absolutely have to have on Blu-ray (if you want to save a few bucks and don’t care too much about video quality, you could always pick up the DVD), but it does look quite nice on the format.
In terms of bonus features, Fighting with My Family is almost loaded with extras (at least for a 2019 release as special features have been on a decline lately). This release includes two different cuts, the theatrical cut as well as an unrated director’s cut. In addition, the film has six deleted or extended scenes, a gag reel, a making of featurette titled “A Family’s Passion” (which includes brief interviews with the real-life Knights), “Learning the Moves” (a three-minute featurette about how Pugh learned to wrestle), and a commentary with director Stephen Merchant. The extras are mostly interesting, but not really what I would call essential viewing. They do add some nice value to the package though.
While it helps to be a wrestling fan, you don’t really need to be one to enjoy Fighting with My Family. I’ve never seen a wrestling match in my life and I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. The film isn’t even exclusively about wrestling, at its heart it is more of a movie about family and going for your dreams; two themes that are much more universal. While it may be a bit too long (about ten minutes or so) and I may not agree with some of the content that got cut or changed, Fighting with My Family is overall a funny film with a whole lot of heart. Recommended.
Fighting with My Family was released on Blu-ray on May 14, 2019.
We would like to thank Universal Pictures Home Entertainment for the review copy of Fighting with My Family used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.