The story of WWE Superstar Paige comes to life in this dramedy that is driven by a tour de force performance by lead Florence Pugh.
Raya Knight comes from a wrestling family in Norwich, England. Her father, an ex-con, had started the World Association of Wrestling and his wife, Julia, was known as Sweet Saraya. Raya and her brother Zak, when they became teenagers, joined their dad’s organization and gained a major reputation as one of England’s major wrestling families. Zak and Raya are given a chance to try out for WWE. At the tryouts, Raya, who becomes Paige, is chosen to stay while Zak is sent to return to England.
As Paige begins to train under Hutch Morgan for their NXT developmental brand, Zak begins to work as a jobber for his father’s organization. Zak begins to resent Paige’s working with NXT and it slowly begins to take a toll on his personal life. When the pressure becomes too much for her, Paige returns home and learns of Zak’s resentment. When Paige finally gets the courage to return to WWE, she begins a whole new lease of life and a chance moment is set to change her life forever.
For those unfamiliar with WWE and professional wrestling or sports entertainment, Saraya-Jade Bevis was one of the young greats until her retirement from in-ring action at the age of 26. Her story and her rise to live her dream as a WWE superstar can be considered something of a modern-day Cinderella story, minus the Prince Charming angle. As of this review, she is still with WWE but as the manager of the team of Japanese powerhouses Asuka and Kairi Sane, aka The Kabuki Warriors. Produced by Dwayne Johnson, writer and director Stephen Merchant did his research on the story of young Raya, who would begin her career at 13 years old.
While she is known for her amazing performance in the horror film Midsommar, this film is definitely a breakout role for British actress Florence Pugh, who does an excellent job in the role of Paige. Pugh without a doubt not only successfully emulates the WWE superstar but did quite well doing the wrestling moves quite well. It is quite interesting to see Paige and her struggles among both her family and her WWE career. Jack Lowden, on the other hand, plays Zak as someone who feels broken and stepped down on a daily basis when he is not chosen for WWE after a tryout. Pugh and Lowden have this chemistry that works as they struggle with shock, resentment, but in the end, family is family and when the most pivotal moment in Paige’s career is about to happen, Zak is ready to support her in a way that helps give Paige the confidence needed.
For those unfamiliar with the WWE or professional wrestling, Saraya-Jade Bevis’ story is one that could be considered legendary, even though she is only 27 years old. Known today as Paige, she may be retired from in-ring competition, but legacy remains one of the greatest today as she started her wrestling career as a teenager in Norwich for her father’s company before rising through the ranks to become a top name in WWE, winning the Divas title on her first match in the main roster. The film, written and directed by comedian/actor Stephen Merchant is a great look at an underdog story like no other.
While everyone knows actress Florence Pugh for both Lady MacBeth and the recently released Midsommar, she showed why she is a major name today because she does an amazing job at bringing Saraya’s story to life from her transition from Raya Knight to Paige. Pugh brings that emotional range from nervousness to confident to nearly breaking before upping the ante on her confidence level. As the title indicates, the film is about more than Raya’s rise to the WWE but her relationship with her family, notably her brother Zak, played by Jack Lowden. Lowden plays Zak as someone who lost his dream and instead of coming up with a plan B, finds himself resentful for most of the film until he and Raya realize they may not be perfect, but they have each other when it all comes down to it. They may be siblings and have that rivalry, but deep down they are each other’s rocks.
Nick Frost and Lena Headey show terrific support as Raya and Zak’s parents, Ricky and Julia Knight, who while they support Paige, attempt to make good in terms of Zak. However, Ricky seems more interested in his daughter than trying to help his son overcome his issues while Julia attempts to bring everyone together despite their issues. Vince Vaughn brings a bit of comic relief in the role of WWE coach Hutch, who sees something in Paige and goes through it all to push her to show her potential to the max. Even when in a pivotal scene, he tells her that it’s not going to work out, leading to an eventual break, it is a sign that maybe Hutch needed to give Paige a break as a refresher. Dwayne Johnson is wonderful as well, Dwayne Johnson, who serves as a mentor to Paige, having come from a wrestling family himself and comes in at the right moments.
Fighting with My Family is a very emotional and heartfelt look at the life and pivotal moments in the life of former WWE superstar Paige and her rise from the UK to the main roster of WWE, all driven by a really excellent performance by Florence Pugh and excellent support from Jack Lowden, Nick Frost, and Lena Headey, as well as Dwayne Johnson.
WFG RATING: A-
MGM Pictures presents a WWE Studios-Misher Films production in association with Seven Bucks Productions, Film4, Channel 4 Television Corp., and The Ink Factory. Director: Stephen Merchant. Producers: Dwayne Johnson, Stephen Merchant, Dany Garcia, Michael J. Luisi, and Kevin Misher. Writer: Stephen Merchant. Cinematography: Remi Adefarasin. Editing: Nancy Richardson.
Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, Vince Vaughn, Mohammad Amiri, Stephen Merchant, Julia Davis, Ellie Gonsalves, Aqueela Zoll, Kim Matula, James Burrows.