Directed by Stephen Merchant and produced by Dwayne Johnson, Fighting With My Family recounts the remarkable true story of Norwich wrestler turned WWE superstar Saraya-Jade 'Paige' Bevis.
Portrayed with great tenacity and verve by rising star Florence Pugh, the plucky Saraya-Jade hails from a family of scrappy family of Anglian wrestlers, including dad Patrick aka 'Rowdy Ricky Knight' (Nick Frost) and Julia aka 'Sweet Saraya' (Lena Headey).
When Saraya-Jade is summoned to America for WWE tryouts, she's forced to leave her family behind and contemplate a potential new life spent entertaining crowds of thousands. But in the process, her WWE-aspiring brother Zak aka 'Zodiac' (Jack Lowden) may be forced to give up on his dream.
Here's why you absolutely cannot miss the movie when it's released this March.
1. It's a passion project for Dwayne Johnson
The artist formerly known as The Rock first came across the story of Saraya-Jade and her family when shooting Fast & Furious in Britain. Having watched the documentary about their lives, The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family, Johnson spent the next several years battling with major Hollywood studios to get the story translated to the big screen.
So enthusiastic was Johnson about the project that he spent several years battling the studios to get it made. It's finally reached us as a joint production between WWE Studios and his own company Seven Bucks. Johnson also makes a slyly funny cameo appearance in the movie as himself, frequently crossing paths with the talented yet naive Saraya-Jade as she strives for WWE fame.
2. It demonstrates Stephen Merchant's directorial chops
Although Stephen Merchant has directed movies before (he made the underrated Cemetery Junction in 2010 with cohort Ricky Gervais), this is the first time he's gone it alone.
And the end results are terrific: the wry wit present in both The Office and Extras is well-matched with the poignant emotional undercurrents of both those shows. Merchant's sense of humanity and compassion means he's adept at framing both Saraya-Jade's humble Norwich beginnings and her fish-out-of-water alarm when landing in Florida for the sun-kissed WWE trials.
By keeping the focus firmly on a young woman beset by her own personal trials, even as her fame goes on the increase, Merchant reminds us why his earlier work with Gervais was so celebrated.
3. It features terrific performances
As mentioned, the movie is anchored by the brilliant Florence Pugh, who emerged in 2017 with darkly engrossing period thriller Lady Macbeth and has gone from strength to strength since. Her portrayal of the enthusiastic if unprepared Saraya-Jade is the motor that keeps the film running, but this is a movie with character depth to spare across the board.
Another standout is Dunkirk and Mary, Queen of Scots actor Jack Lowden as Zak, a young wrestler forced to swallow his own hubris and pride when his sister overtakes him. It's another strong performance from an increasingly versatile actor, who captures the darkness and ambition of the aspiring wrestler.
And Nick Frost and Lena Headey bring a pleasingly honest, warts-and-all edge to Saraya-Jade's opportunistic yet loving parents. While Patrick occasionally sees his kids' wrestling skills as a way of furthering the reputation of his World Association of Wrestling company, Julia is just trying to hold things together – it's an entertaining portrayal of flawed yet human individuals.
4. It's hilarious throughout
Right from the opening sequence, in which the young Saraya-Jade and Zak are coached in how to scrap properly by their rough-and-ready parents, it's clear that Merchant's comic timing hasn't dimmed.
The movie maintains a consistent stream of laughs throughout, particularly when Saraya-Jade reaches America and is coached in how to handle the aggressive WWE crowd. She's taught by Vince Vaughn's Hutch, who is less a trainer and more a motor-mouthed drill instructor – it's proof the actor can still deliver the comedy value when he needs to.
And Johnson's cameo is also a highlight – at one point he calls Saraya-Jade's home, only for the disbelieving Patrick to hang up the phone in contempt. The spot-on collision of down-to-earth Norwich with the glossy world of WWE keeps the belly laughs coming.
5. It also packs a punch when it needs to
Admirably, the movie doesn't shy away from the more unsavoury aspects of Saraya-Jade's family (although the movie is generally geared as a feel-good experience). In particular, there are some well-acted and surprisingly hard-hitting scenes focusing on Zak's isolation and anger as he's left behind in Norwich while his sister jets off to the States. Lowden's convincing performance helps ensure the movie hits as many emotional beats as it does laughs.
Has our list of reasons convinced you? Then click here to book your tickets for Fighting With My Family, opening in Cineworld on 1st March. Don't forget to tweet us your own reactions @Cineworld once you've seen it.