Now bear with me because a film based on the true story of a family of wrestlers from the city of Norwich in England may sound as if it is a very niche film and would only appeal to fans of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), but that really could not be further from the truth. Surprisingly it is not just a film made just for wrestling fans. In fact “Fighting with My Family” transcends that to become a film which is every bit as inspiring and awards worthy as the original “Rocky“, a film that even those who are not fans of wrestling or sports movies will love. It is without a doubt one of the most pleasant surprises of recent years, and will quite possibly be on my list of best films of 2019.

Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) was inspired to make the film by the 2012 Channel 4 documentary “The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family“. When in London filming he purely by chance he saw the documentary:

“I was up at 3am (too much caffeine) and stumbled upon the documentary on a UK (TV) station (Channel 4) about a local wrestling family and their daughter’s unlikely journey into the global spotlight. The family element I saw in the doc is what grabbed my attention. That no matter how crazy life gets, no matter how dysfunctional our families can sometimes be and especially regardless of how much we fight we’re always there for each other when it counts. That’s what families do.”

Fighting with My Family” is the true story of WWE wrestler Paige (Saraya-Jade Bevis) and her family, particularly her relationship with her brother.  As is to be expected there is some dramatic license taken with the story, with at least one fictional character, but the core of the story is true. The movie may sound as if it would be a pretty generic rags to riches Hollywood film, however it is does not feel as if it is, just as the original “Rocky” film does not.  This is mostly down to the outstanding cast who all give superb performances, especially English actress Florence Pugh, one of the best actresses of her generation. Her first feature film was “The Falling” in 2014, but her breakout role was in the superb “Lady Macbeth“, among one of my best films of 2017. She then followed this up with a star making performance in the 2018 BBC co-production of John LeCarre‘s “Little Drummer Girl” starring alongside Michael Shannon and Alexander Skarsgård. She brings depth and complexity to all of her performances and she is no different in “Fighting with My Family“. She depicted beautifully all the contrasting aspects of Paige, brilliantly supported by the impressive cast. Nick Frost in a scene stealing career best performance, and Lena Heady as Paige’s parents, with Jack Lowden as her brother, Vince Vaughn, and Dwayne Johnson playing himself in a very small but key role.

Beautifully written and very assuredly directed by Stephen Merchant in his solo debut feature film, having previously co-written and co-directed “Cemetery Junction” with Ricky Gervais. The film portrays the reality of not only the show business and glitzy glamour of WWE wrestling, but also the hard work and passion that goes into it and grass roots wrestling. Yes at every level of wrestling the matches maybe staged with fictional narratives to make them entertainment, but it is not fake, with extremely hard work put in to becoming a world class wrestler. The depiction of the reality of WWE wrestling is perfectly juxtaposed with the grass roots wrestling that was genuinely the salvation of Paige’s family. Wrestling saved her father from a life of crime and was key to turning his life around.

I really cannot recommend “Fighting with My Family” enough. It left me with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye by the end.

A film and true life story that everyone who is “weird” and “not normal” can relate to and be inspired by.

Karl Franks