There has oddly been a wrestling revival in Hollywood over the past few years. After a number of misfires (excluding The Wrestler), producers seem to have finally struck gold by turning the camera toward the fairer sex with series like GLOW and this film. Fighting with My Family isn’t a great film, but it’s far better than you might expect—even if you’re not much of a fan of the squared circle.
Fighting with My Family is based on the true story of WWE wrestling sensation Paige. It tracks her early life as a kid growing up in England as part of a wrestling family, to her eventual ascension to the top of the WWE’s women’s division. The early previews made Fighting out as a screwball comedy focused inside the ring, but the truth is pretty much the opposite. Yeah, there’s a training montage, but it’s wryly focused on united female empowerment and not one woman versus the world. There are laugh out loud moments, but never really at the expense of who these characters are.
What’s actually here is a sweet, family drama about coming to terms with your own dreams and those thrust upon you by others. Nick Frost and Lena Headey are outstanding as the parents who run an independent wrestling promotion with their own personal warts and all. They’re lower-class, but not low-class. Their first priority is their family, and their quiet moments with star Florence Pugh as Paige are some of the best in the film. Pugh, however, is the real standout here. She capably holds her own with the aforementioned Frost and Headey, and for that matter the entire cast. She shines on screen even in the dourest moments of the script—you want to watch her. It’s a difficult tightrope to project both strength and vulnerability within the same scene at times.
The brilliance of Fighting with My Family is in letting itself be quiet and slow at moments. In the glitz and glamor world of professional wrestling, much like the real-life Paige, the filmmakers understand that pushing against the expectations can produce something truly endearing and memorable.