Sundance 2019: “Fighting with My Family” Review

Florence Pugh appears in Fighting with My Family by Stephen Merchant, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Sundance 2019: “Fighting with My Family” Review

Fighting with My Family was the surprise screening at Sundance 2019. Met with a boisterous crowd, the film premiered at The Ray theater on Monday evening. Fighting with My Family tells the story of a real-life family from Norwich, England. Avid wrestling fans and wrestlers themselves, the family runs their wrestling organization in England. Husband, Ricky (Nick Frost) and wife, Julia (Lena Headey) run the gym with the help of their kids, Zak (Jack Lowden) and daughter, Raya (Florence Pugh). Once the chance of a lifetime comes around, and the WWE is in England, the two kids rush to audition with the hope to make their dreams come true. When only Raya is selected, she must face challenges she never expected, while finding hope in herself and eventually becoming the WWE wrestling sensation, Paige.

Stephen Merchant’s script is funny and emotional providing an excellent basis for these characters and for the audience to get a real feel of what their chemistry is. Each scene is packed with either emotion or humor, or both in some cases. What he also succeeds so well in doing is making a film about wrestling that manages to appeal to people who don’t care for wrestling. I never understood or got into wrestling or why people are so excited about it. This film makes that all disappear because while it is about wrestling, it is also an inspirational tale about the strength of family, finding your inner strength, and overcoming obstacles, and that is something that is universal.

Lena Headey, Florence Pugh, and Nick Frost appear in Fighting with My Family by Stephen Merchant, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The performances in the film are great. Florence Pugh as Raya/ Paige is just fantastic. She has this tough exterior but has the capability to show the vulnerable side of her character. The physical demands of the role had to be pretty taxing but Florence handles them so well and makes it look natural. Jack Lowden as her brother Zak gives a performance that requires a lot from him. He must be strong and resilient but also has to be allowed to struggle and feel pain and anger. Lowden handles it with such ease. Nick Frost and Lena Headey give excellent performances as the parents, and the rest of the cast round out the story well. Having cameos from The Rock delighted the audience, and it was fun to see him back in the place where he started.

Fighting with My Family is a film for everyone. Wrestling fans will be delighted with the story and the rise of a very popular wrestler, but it isn’t just for them. The story is universal and reaches across audiences to everyone. The story is inspirational and gives the audience an underdog to champion, reminding us that dreams do come true, and that hard work and passion are rewarded in the end. A truly inspiring film full of laughs and yes, a few tears, Fighting with My Family is a wrestling film for everyone.

Written by
Ashley Menzel is an avid film lover and lives in Los Angeles, CA. She loves foreign films and dramas and reading books that have film adaptations. Her favorite movie of all time is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. She loves Doctor Who, Supernatural, iZombie, and Grimm.

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