Title – Fences (2016)
Director – Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher)
Cast – Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Jovan Adepo, Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby
Plot – Hard working African-American and jilted ex-athlete Troy Maxson (Washington) struggles to keep his life in check in the 1950’s USA after a revelation is revealed to his dedicated wife Rose (Davis) and his son Cory (Adepo) starts questioning his authority.
“Don’t you go through life worrying about whether somebody like you or not! You best be makin’ sure that they’re doin’ right by you!”
Review by Eddie on 27/02/2017
While not cinematic in the purest sense of the word, this stageplay come to life as a feature film; whilst staying very much close to the roots of its stage-set origins, is a captivating piece of cinema that enthrals and shocks purely through its use of brilliantly brought to life and commanding performances moulded almost perfectly together with a gut-punch of a script by late playwright August Wilson.
Denzel Washington’s third feature film as a director and by far his most accomplished, Fences see’s the well regarded actor bring back the stage plays core cast for another go around and it works wonders for Fences ability to draw in the audience despite what initially seems like a questionable run-time.
For 130 or so minutes of the run-time attached to Fences, we barely leave the residence of Washington’s hardworking yet equally as hardhearted garbage collection/bitter ex-sports star Troy Maxson and his fellow co-inhabitants, Viola Davis’s caring and long-suffering wife/mother Rose and rightfully angry son Cory, whose recent foray into the possibility of becoming a pro-athlete spurns on many a heated family discussion, but the film never once feels like it’s not doing or saying something.
Sometimes visited by Troy’s mentally handicapped ex-soldier brother Gabe, best friend Jim or Troy’s oldest son Lyons, the household of the Maxson family becomes a battleground for these clashing souls and becomes the playground for the considerable acting chops of Washington and Davis in particular, who have honed their incarnations of these characters down to a fine art over their time in the stage version of this story so that every moment of love, anger or resentment feels whole-heartedly real.
They are in many ways showy performances, there’s ample time for tears, shouting and considered looks but there’s no denying that they combine into one of the best double acts seen on screen in sometime.
Since I had partaken in the quiet power of Manchester by the Sea, I felt fairly confident that the soon to be announced Best Actor Oscar was Casey Affleck’s for the taking but with Washington taking control of every ounce of Troy’s being, it’s an award that you wish could be shared between the two differently styled actors but Washington you feel has the edge with Troy providing the veteran performer one of his most memorable roles.
Every scene with Washington in it, particularly the films early onslaughts, allow the actor time and space to show off his impressive prowess and when Troy is unhappy about something (which is more often than not), Washington will have you glued to your seat, unable to take your eyes off his captivating turn.
Not to be outdone however, Viola Davis’s owns Rose’s presence in the film and while Troy is a character we want to side with despite his many various faults and sins, Rose is a character that will break your heart as she tries desperately and earnestly to do the best with what she’s been given and as is the general consensus, Davis is as bankable as you’d like when considering who is taking home this year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
While it will be to stagey and wordy for some, Fences offers one of modern cinemas rare chances to see a film driven and brought to life purely through the art of acting whilst offering an insightful look at black lives in 1950’s America. A refreshingly scaled back cinematic experience in many ways, just as its awards cohort Manchester by the Sea, Fences is full of heart, seething emotion and genuinely outstanding acting turns and is one of the best stage to film adaptations of the modern era.
4 ½ trumpets out of 5