Film Review: Fighting With My Family
PUBLISHED: 10:37 13 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:06 13 March 2019
© Universal Pictures International Switzerland
Despite eye-rolling moments, Mark Goodin thinks Fighting With My Family could be Nick Frost’s best performance in years.
Inspired by the similarly titled 2012 Channel 4 documentary, Stephen Merchant’s feature tells the story of Norwich-based wrestling family the Knights and how the bonds of siblings Zak (Jack Lowden) and Saraya (Florence Pugh) are tested when, during a try-out for the WWE’s competitive wrestling programme, only Saraya earns a spot.
Having created, co-written and directed with Ricky Gervais The Office and Extras, Merchant is a perfect fit for the material, deftly balancing the film’s mixture of humour and pathos both in capturing the Knight family’s deep-set passion for wrestling and in Saraya’s – who adopts the stage name of Paige - struggle to cope with the increasingly tough WWE training regime lorded over by no-nonsense trainer Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn).
As the title suggests, the real conflict occurs not inside the ring but much closer to home. It is here that the film is strongest. Merchant conveys the fraying familial tensions with real dexterity and sensitivity, without ever straying into heavy-handed melodrama.
A surprisingly brutal Christmas wrestling match between Saraya and Zak and a later verbal confrontation between the two are just two of the stand-out scenes.
However, in its final act the film gives way to mawkish sentimentality – bad blood and hurt feelings are resolved through a series of eye-rolling ‘inspirational’ speeches.
That said, the performances are magnificent; Pugh and Lowden both deliver strong, nuanced turns and Nick Frost, as the family’s patriarch Ricky, delivers his finest performance in years in this heart-warming coming of age wrestling biopic.