reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
Pro-wrestling’s crudity, lasciviousness, and violence
Saraya-Jade Bevis … Saraya / Paige
Dwayne Johnson … Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Lena Headey … Julia Knight
Florence Pugh … Raya Knight
Jack Lowden … Zak Knight
Vince Vaughn … Hutch Morgan
Stephen Merchant … Hugh
Nick Frost … Ricky Knight
Kim Matula … Jeri-Lynn
James Burrows … Roy Knight
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Channel 4 Television Corporation [Great Britain]
Film4 [Great Britain]
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Note: This film is based on the documentary “The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family” (2012) about the WWE career of professional wrestler Paige™ (Saraya-Jade Bevis).
I’m usually a passive moviegoer, accustomed to tough action flicks, but this film often made me cringe from the foul language, get chills from evil acts, and eventually shout at the screen in frustration! It’s an intense 1 hour 47 minutes, but, unfortunately, mostly for the wrong reasons.
“Fighting with My Family” tells of a loving, but dissatisfied, wrestling family in Britain who teach and perform in their Grapplers’ Gym and who foster ambitions of glory in professional wrestling. The parents were well-known fighters, but now find their fame fading and their finances faltering.
Their adult children Zak and Saraya (later known as Paige) score a chance to try out for the WWE in America. This, at first, delights everyone, but soon a twist comes that challenges all their assumptions, dreams, confidence and relationships. Each family member is suddenly confronted questions—‘Who am I? Who will I become? Do I have to adjust my expectations?’
As promised by the trailers, we find a captivating and inspiring true story with first-rate acting, as well as truly impressive athleticism and passion. It certainly exposes the ‘fixed, but not fake’ wrestling world, also makes an emotional connection with its audience, and pleases us when characters find some redemption. There are strong reminders to not judge people before we know them.
Viewers will certainly find favorite characters in Saraya and her big brother Zak (Jack Lowden), along with a young wrestler who is blind, yet bravely trains with everyone else. Themes of identity, stereotyping, conformity and sibling rivalry are relatively well explored. Some initially faulty thinking is corrected, following painful lessons.
I prepared myself for blood, sweat, tears, threatening behavior and a lot of f-words, yet these are toned down, and instead one’s senses are hit with over 30 references to private body parts or functions. There are also dozens of physical blows used for evil pleasure or gain, even by the ‘heroes’ of the story.
Basically, right from childhood Saraya and Zak’s family deals with tensions by using violent language and behavior. I found it difficult to watch the main character—still a teenager at 18—being regularly attacked by elite fighters who are taller and nastier.
Nevertheless, the story-line is interesting and beautifully acted (and fought) with amazing commitment.
Entertainment-style wrestling is clearly a sport that requires intensive training, skill and mental toughness. But it’s violent and involves destructive talk. I understand that “Fighting with My Family” tells real people’s life stories, and, as such, the makers must acknowledge each key part of Saraya and Zak’s journeys. However, there are ways to do so in a manner that does not harm one’s audience nor fill their eyes and ears with filth. Instead—to thrill worldly viewers—the producers have chosen to riddle the script with unnecessary crudity and the kind of ‘humor’ that grieves God and a God-loving soul.
Sadly, it also seems from this movie that the pro wrestling world itself has inherent issues. For example, competitors are expected to give the last of their energy for fame and ‘the dream.’ Despite an authority claiming, “Wrestling is story-telling: good versus evil,” and that it’s all about “being yourself,” it’s obviously more about building a fierce image that will end up on posters on a teenager’s wall.
Wrestling and fame also appear to have an addictive effect on their audiences and performers, such that characters admit that it is “escape” and get swept away with the money and power involved. “Some people find religion. Well, I found wrestling.” Clearly it has taken the place of God in their lives.
Those are the overarching issues, but please also read my lists below for specific concerning content, as there’s too much to discuss here.
Far from being a family movie or primarily a comedy, “Fighting with My Family” is a drama full of questionable dialog and unnecessary amounts of strong realistic violence in strongly emotional and distressing scenes. Regardless of age, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, because the negatives far outweigh the positives for most viewers.
For those who are simply curious about the international pro wrestling scene and what it would be like to live in that ‘world,’ don’t make the mistake I made in thinking that to see a movie about it would be a gentler introduction than attending a fight. There’s nothing gentle about “Fighting with My Family.” I’m not sure whether it gives us an accurate glimpse into that world, but that is beside the point. As ‘entertainment,’ it does not at all fit with a Christian worldview and lingers over truly appalling treatment of one human by another. This makes for a tainted and disappointing experience. It is certainly not for children or teenagers, nor even—in my opinion—edifying viewing for adults.
If you’re trying to pick your battles wisely, give this one a miss.
As 1 Timothy 6:11-12 tells us,
Alcohol: A character is a recovering alcoholic, but asks for alcohol. Another person drinks alone in a pub and then starts a violent brawl. A father drinks beer at home, while neglecting a baby. Party drinks.
Drugs: Usage and dealing. Marijuana. Joke made about it.
Sex: No sex scenes, but many sexual references. Detailed conversations—impolitely expressed—about intercourse, pregnancy and childbirth. Half a dozen rude comments regarding masturbation. Passionate kissing. Foreplay in public. Expectation to look sexy and behave sexually. Mention of sex tapes. ‘Unplanned pregnancy.’
Nudity: Many bikini-clad women in all sorts of positions. Frequent over-exposure of cleavage. Many men with bare chests. Women with fishnet stockings. Lycra/ skin-hugging outfits on all types of bodies. Most bodies tanned and oiled for shows. Brief depiction of childbirth.
Swearing and crude language: This is heavy, especially the crudity, and includes: terms for male genitalia (15+), female parts (3+), b*tch (2), *ss (5), w*nker (4), sh*t (5), p*ss (2), b*stard (2), bl**dy (2), h*ll (2). Some swearing is by children. Other insults such as “freak” are viciously spoken. Crowds taunt and boo.
Blasphemy: The name of Jesus Christ is misused 3 times.
Violence: Occasionally realistic, severe, evil and prolonged. Slaps, punches, kicks, sharp and blunt objects, pinning, head-butts, hair-pulling and more. Some by children, intensely. Young and grown children assaulting their parents. Some coaching is insulting and merciless, such as, “Your spirit’s weak.” Violent, shouting crowds. Parents encourage their young children to respond with violence. One scene looks strongly like a domestic partner violence situation, male beating female mercilessly, in the wrestling ring. Also, a nasty pub fight.
Spiritual and Occult: Idol worship (idolizing celebrities). Acceptance of various sins. Small references to Gothic appearance, and several bedroom posters with dark themes.
Other: Middle finger raised. Disrespect for males, females and the gift of sexuality. Man teased for crying. Disability issues. Abandonment. Thefts and instructions to steal, as though it’s normal. Crimes and prison. Harassment and bullying behaviors. Panic attack with hyperventilation. Loneliness and distance from family. Dramatic change of appearance. Postnatal depression. Body image issues and pressure to conform. Shaming. Stage fright. Poor examples of parenting. Extreme distress.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.