I’ve never seen a boxing match, but I enjoyed ‘Rocky’. I don’t watch skiing, but I like ‘Eddie The Eagle’. And now, Stephen Merchant has added Wrestling to sports I don’t watch despite enjoying films about them. Fighting with My Family does what every great sports film does. It concentrates on the characters and story rather than the sport. And boy does it work.
Stephen Merchant has really proved with his solo directorial debut that he doesn’t need Ricky Gervais to make brilliant entertainment. Ditching his usual directorial partner but still bringing his usual wit and whimsy, Fighting with My Family has cemented the fact that he is a comedy force to be reckoned with. The film tells the true story of Paige, an English professional wrestler who at the age of 18 became the youngest British professional female WWE wrestler. Florence Pugh plays Paige, and it must be said that she completely shines in the role. Her fire and emotion are burning throughout, and she delivers an amazingly believable performance.
Alongside Pugh are Jack Lowden as her brother who gets rejected by the WWE, Nick Frost and Lena Headey as her parents, Vince Vaughn as Hutch Morgan, the WWE trainer, and Dwayne Johnson as himself. The whole cast are phenomenal, with highlights including Nick Frost being as funny as ever, and Jack Lowden delivering a powerful helping of emotion.
The film is crucially not about wrestling. It is a film about dreams and family, and this is why the film is such a success. It doesn’t alienate Wrestling newbies, while also respecting the sport for those that love it. For a topic that Merchant probably knew very little about beforehand, he has done a remarkable job of creating a genuinely compelling and heartwarming sports drama.
The comedy in the script is tight as a whip, with puns, cringe comedy and pure slapstick all being used to get as many laughs as possible. It’s no secret that Merchant is a genius writer, and this only continues to prove this. Obviously, there are some cliché moments and there was nothing particularly original done with the filmmaking, but this didn’t remotely detract from the enjoyment of the movie.
Overall, Fighting with My Family is a runaway success that proves that Stephen Merchant is still as funny now as he was 20 years ago with The Office. The stars are amazing, the setting is well explained and the emotion of the story stand out above the violence of the subject matter.