The true coming-of-Paige story wrestles beautifully with your emotions from start to finish.
In 2012, Channel 4 broadcast The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family, a rowdy documentary about a family of wrestlers from Norwich and whose daughter, Saraya-Jade, had been signed by the WWE. Only a couple of years later and under the ring name Paige, she was crowned WWE Diva Champion – the youngest ever person to do so at just 21.
Now, Stephen Merchant has written and directed basically the big screen version of this. And it rocks. And not just because Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson serves as the films executive producer and cameos in it.
The Bevis family are wrestling obsessed and run a wrestling club, the WAW, in Norwich. When WWE comes to the UK and hold tryouts for the next big thing, Saraya (Florence Pugh) and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) are invited to participate. However, only Saraya is successful and embarks on a four-month WWE training programme in Florida, called NXT, leaving behind a crestfallen brother and proud parents.
The comedy-drama stars a particularly heavyweight Nick Frost as dad and Game of Throne‘s Lena Headey as mum. In fact most of the film’s chuckles are channelled through these two, Frost in particular, in a barrage of witty scriptwriting from Merchant.
This isn’t the first time a wrestling film has been less about the sport per se and more about the protagonist’s emotional battles – think 2008’s The Wrestler. And like Mickey Rourke’s spandex showcase, Fighting With My Family succeeds in focussing on not the usual glamorous sweat of wrestling, but the psychological effects on those involved. Zak’s depression and the subsequent sibling rift caused after him being denied by the WWE threatens the family’s bond. Likewise, the NXT isn’t all that Saraya thought it would be and forces her to question what she really wants in life.
Fan of the ring or not, this is a sports biopic spiked with enough humour and pathos to leave you pondering a wrestling pseudonym you’ll never use.
Fighting With My Family is out in UK cinemas on Wednesday 27th February.