Incredibly charming and sweet, My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler is a perfect antidote for those needing a dose of wholesomeness in these difficult times.
On the face of it this is a film about wrestling, however, the wrestling is merely a catalyst for the overarching narrative that is infinitely deeper and can be appreciated by anybody, not just wrestling fans.
My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler offers insight and lessons into meaningful parts of life; the complexity of dreams whether you’re a 9-year-old child or a father past his prime and the importance of wanting to be accepted and understood by those you love.
My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler has a heart filled story that is bolstered by the vast array of characters that range from school children with their unbiased and innocent look at what happens in a wrestling ring, to a journalist that is a huge wrestling fan (that we can all relate to), to the charismatic as ever Hiroshi Tanahashi who plays the titled Dad. The fleshed out cast is perfect at portraying their different approaches to the world.
The story follows the adorable 9-year-old Shota who inadvertently discovers his father is the villainous Cockroach Mask (Hiroshi Tanahashi) in Lion Pro Wrestling. Having only just discovered professional wrestling Shota now has to come to grips with the challenging duality that the man he idolised and dreamed of growing up to be is actually a baddie.
Shota’s dreams of growing up to be big and strong like his Dad are dealt a heavy blow of reality upon the discovery and Cockroach Mask isn’t proud of himself either. 10 years prior Cockroach Mask was the ace, having won the Z-1 Climax tournament as his true self Takashi Omura, but the injury would lead to his downfall and his eventual return would be under the guise of Cockroach Mask. Now he is vying for the chance to prove himself once again, not only for himself but for his son.
The film has its lion share of New Japan wrestlers popping up throughout, with some playing pivotal parts whilst others are cameo roles. Kazuchika Okada plays the prolific Dragon George, the top Champion and current ace. Even in the fictional Lion Pro Wrestling Okada is still the man! Other names include KUSHIDA, Trent Baretta, Togi Makabe, Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito to name a few.
The enthusiasm shown by the wrestling fans throughout is infectious, whether it be the school children or the journalist, Michiko. For wrestling fans, it is a poignant reminder that in its purest form wrestling should be enjoyed for what happens in the ring and not outside it or online. But away from all the excitement of the squared circle the film truly hits its stride with more profound scene.
When we see a father trying to connect with his disillusioned son and come to terms with the crushing reality that he is no longer the man he was 10 years prior; the simple but heartwarming moment when Michiko’s colleagues offer support with Michiko saying a word; seeing Shota’s friends stick by him even when the truth is revealed and others choose to be unkind.
It’s hard to watch My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler without a smile on your face. It does an impressive job of ensuring it does not alienate those with any predisposition to wrestling, positive or negative. It is an open book for all to enjoy.
You can find me on Twitter @CiaranRH. Thanks for reading.