Fighting With My Family

The family that fights together, stays together in Fighting With My Family, a new film from Stephen Merchant (The Office UK). The film is based on a 2012 documentary by the same subtitled name about the Knight family of Norwich, England, and the path daughter Saraya takes to becoming WWE wrestling superstar Paige. It’s a crowd-pleasing movie—as you might expect from a movie about professional wrestling—with an intelligent undercurrent about what success looks like whether you “make it big” or not.

Saraya/Paige is the beating heart of the movie. She more or less inherits her involvement in professional wrestling from her parents and older siblings. For her parents, wrestling was a way out of a life of crime and drug addiction. For her older brothers, wrestling promises to be a way to a better life. For her, to be a member of the family is to be a wrestler. Her wrestling is all for them. So. when the chance to be a WWE star takes her far away from them and the kind of wrestling they do, she isn’t so sure she wants to wrestle anymore. She has to find a reason to continue in the profession without her family on the ropes beside her.

Her brother, Zac, faces a different challenge. I’m not giving anything away here that isn’t in the trailer, but Zac isn’t chosen by WWE. He has to stay behind in Norwich. His story is just as essential to this film as Saraya’s, but while she copes with the promise and costs of fame, he deals with the weight of having a dream denied, with the surety of anonymity when he’d hoped for stardom.

Both stories in Fighting With My Family are compelling, because we all find ourselves on either side of that conflict. Either we achieve our goals and discover hidden costs, or we fail and have to reckon with disappointment and adjust our expectations of what life will look like. To Fighting With My Family’s credit, it finds value in both paths. Too many stories like this one only laud success and fame and fortune when that isn’t the path most of us get to take.

There is beauty and goodness in a simple life. Parochialism has fallen out of favor these days. It is seen as myopic. But we should reclaim it. The word is derived from the “parish,” after all, and we Christians should love the parish. We know it is the context in which all real, Christ-like love takes place. And in knowing and serving a place fully—loving it—we tap into eternal truths. If God is everywhere and in everything, then God is just as present in our neighborhoods as God is in the cosmos. Zac may not get to see his lights, but he does get to see the lights in the eyes of the neighborhood kids he teaches how to wrestle. Love is love is love no matter where you find it. I admire Fighting With My Family for knowing that and for communicating it so entertainingly.