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Siblings in the ring

Jack Lowden and Florence Pugh (Robert Viglasky/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

Movie

Siblings in the ring

While not quite family-friendly, Fighting With My Family upholds values of hard work and familial love

It’s a long way from the wrong side of town in Norwich, England, to the glitz and glamour of America’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). But that is the unlikely journey Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) travels in Fighting With My Family, a film based on a true story.

All the members of the Knight clan are professional wrestlers—professional in the sense that they are paid for their work, although just barely. The crowds are small, a far cry from the stadiums full of screaming fans they dream of. Saraya is reluctant to join brother Zak (Jack Lowden) in learning the sport, until he agrees to dress up as a girl for their first match in the ring.

Zak and Saraya become wrestling fanatics, particularly of WWE with its over-the-top acting and storytelling. In their Norwich neighborhood, they teach a small band of local kids how to wrestle, including a blind teenager whose mastering of moves is really inspiring.

When WWE comes to London, Zak and Saraya are among dozens to audition for talent scout and trainer Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn). Morgan encourages the aspiring wrestlers to see their sport as storytelling, “soap opera in spandex.” Saraya is the only one of the group invited to the USA to see if she can make it on a bigger stage. Along the way, she meets Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who plays himself admirably).

With the stage name Paige, Saraya chases her dreams despite many obstacles, including the jealousy of Zak, who is devastated by his failure to make the grade. Saraya reminds him of the value of his continued work with neighborhood kids: “Just because millions of people aren’t cheering when you do it doesn’t mean it’s not important!”

It’s too bad the writers and producers of Fighting With My Family infused the PG-13 film with so much unnecessary sexual humor, sensuality, foul language, and blasphemy. The storyline otherwise has an unexpected sweetness, championing the values of hard work, love of family, and service to others.