Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Nick Frost, Lena Headey
Director: Stephen Merchant
Every year, I hope that there’s some surprise movie that elevates the early part of the year and makes me forget that we’re not getting potential Best Picture nominees right around now. Thankfully, Fighting with My Family gets the gold standard this year and is truly one of the most enjoyable movies that could come out right now. Fighting with My Family isn’t just a good movie, it’s easily the first great movie of 2019. A fun, heart-warming plot and a great lead performance from Pugh make Fighting with My Family a strong contender to end up on my best of the year list.
The film follows Paige (Pugh), a young British woman whose dream is to become a professional wrestler based on how much it means to her and her family. When a WWE tryout results in her getting brought to a WWE training camp in Florida but her brother Zak (Lowden) is left behind even though it is also his dream, Paige must figure out how to accomplish her dream while also making sure her family doesn’t fall apart without her there. One of the main reasons why the premise of this movie works so well is because it’s very easy to identify and relate to the main characters. This is possible mainly because of the performances of Pugh and Lowden and their abilities to a relatable emotional range. Paige gives us a significant display of emotional reactions, from the joy of finally being able to go after her dream, to realizing how much harder it is than she thought it would be, to the pressure from her family to succeed and provide for them financially are all elements we can relate to regardless of our own dreams and goals and Pugh owns this lead role in a natural, nearly flawless performance. Zak on the other hand is an excellent foil for Paige and shows the consequences of having your dreams crushed. While Paige is off training to be the WWE’s next superstar, Zak has to deal with the reality that no matter how bad he wants it, he’ll never be good enough to achieve it and ends up feeling the exact opposite emotions that Paige is feeling. The way these characters interact with one another after they find out how their paths will go feels natural and really feels as though Pugh and Lowden are actually siblings. Lowden was impressive in Mary Queen of Scots and it will only be a matter of time before he ends up getting a larger role in a major movie. Outside of the acting, the narrative strives to be different from many other sports movies and shows us how to effectively use emotion to move the story along. Sure some of the characters and events are either fabricated or exaggerated from what actually happened, but within the context of the movie, these plot points work and everything feels cohesive. Regardless of your previous knowledge of professional wrestling, it won’t matter if you’re the world’s biggest wrestling fan or someone who just wants to watch a good movie, Fighting with My Family has something for everyone.
Overall, not too many great movies come out in February, but I can safely say that Fighting with My Family is a great movie. Dwayne Johnson’s last couple of movies haven’t exactly been the greatest ever, but even though he doesn’t have a major role in this one, you can tell that he cares way more about this movie than many of his previous attempts. A well-made blend of heart, comedy, action, and drama, Fighting with My Family is this year’s pleasant February surprise.
Overall Score: 9/10