Stephen Merchant directs Florence Pugh, Nick Frost and Jack Lowden in this true tale wrestling comedy drama following the rise to WWE fame of a shy Norwich girl and the effect her success has on her family’s small scale wrestling business back at home.
Coarse yet effective. Closer to The Full Monty or Brassed Off in tone than Rocky or The Wrestler. At its best when being a foul mouthed British sitcom and gifting Frost his strongest cinematic role yet as a reformed thug dad. Admirably it focuses on lows rather than highs, or brother Zak’s acceptance of lowering his sights after a rejection, as much as we follow the lead’s difficult but inevitable climb to the glamorous top. In Florence Pugh’s Paige we see the loneliness of following your dream, in her brother (Lowden) we see the shaky transition from ambition to accepting reality. The two plots run parallel with each other; one sibling has to overcome self doubt, the other accept it as a new viewpoint. Merchant doesn’t pull punches or go for quick fixes when charting his leads’ psychological journeys. For a film that often feels bluntly naive, this juxtaposition of emotional struggles carries surprising heft. Merchant’s script also nimbly sidesteps the awkward ‘victory in the ring’ paradox (if wrestling is fixed or ‘rehearsed’ then how can winning a bout be seen as a satisfying conclusion) by making the finishing line for Paige to be her earning the self confidence to address the massive crowds. Not a must see but accessible and fun.