Adapted from August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name, Fences takes a passionate look at former Negro-league baseball player Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) as he fights to provide for those he loves in a world that threatens to push him down. Troy’s bitterness over missed opportunities cause him to create further tension in his family.
Fences is an incredibly thought provoking film starring two Academy Award winning leads, Denzel Washington as Troy, who won Best Supporting Actor for Glory, (1989) and Best Actor for Training Day (2001) and Viola Davis, who won Best Supporting Actress (2016) for her performance as Rose Maxson in this very film.
Fences portrays the very real struggles African-Americans faced during the 1950s and deeply explores character Troy Maxson’s life.
After enduring a tough childhood Troy became a talented baseball player yet was unable to play in the major leagues because of the colour of his skin. By the time major leagues began admitting black athletes he had become too old. Now in his fifties and making a living as a sanitation worker, Troy is still treated unequally to his white colleagues. The unkind circumstances he has experienced during his lifetime have created a very bitter man. He disapproves of his son’s dreams of playing college football and ultimately squashes them.
For most part of the film it’s hard to like Washington’s character. Troy’s controlling and bullish behaviour towards his wife and son (Jovan Adepo) in particular can make for some slightly awkward and unpleasant viewing. However, as Troy’s layers are peeled back and more is revealed of his past experiences, we can sympathise with him a little and understand why he is like he is.
Character development shines through in this film and is perfectly in sync with the unfolding narrative. The narrative grows through Troy’s telling of the events that have occurred in his life, shaping the character and again gives the audience some understanding behind Troy’s harsh actions and the choices he makes.
Proving that Denzel Washington is multi-talented, he not only stars as the lead but directs Fences too. His use of camera shots keeps a realistic feel to the story and ensures that it connects to the audience on an emotional level. A highlight of Fences and very deserving of mentioning is Viola Davis’ Academy Award Winning performance as Troy’s wife. She plays Rose, who has stuck by Troy’s side for eighteen years suppressing all of her own hopes and dreams to invest in Troy instead. Davis portrays fierce loyalty towards Troy despite some testing events that threaten their relationship.
Fences can guarantee some fantastic acting however I would say it’s not a film everyone will enjoy. It’s quite noticeable that the film has been adapted from a play because it is heavily dominated by dialogue alone and not much action. The entire narrative is told through conversations between characters rather than being portrayed visually, which can make it difficult to maintain attention at times. In some parts audiences may find themselves zoning out and as a whole its arguably overlong.
There is an intense showdown between Troy and his son towards the end as Cory finally finds the courage to stand up to his dad but that’s about as exciting as it gets. Fences is not for audiences who prefer fast pace car chases and nail biting action. Fences is an emotional, poignant film. Despite not being everyone’s cup of tea it’s still worth a watch.
Dir: Denzel Washington
Scr: August Wilson
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson
Prd: Todd Black, Scott Rudin
DOP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Music: Marcelo Zarvos
Run time: 139 mins
Fences is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.