Denzel Washington and Viola Davis put in equally phenomenal performances in ‘Fences’, the screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name.
Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) has lived a hard life: forced to live on the streets away from his family at a young age, he had to learn to fend for himself and do whatever was necessary to survive. This meant making decisions that would change his life, and the lives of those closest to him, forever.
We meet Troy as an adult with a family of his own, a perspective of the world around him shaped by a life of hardship and injustice and Bono (Stephen Henderson), his long-time best friend, always close by. The film opens with a masterfully shot long take of a conversation between Troy and Bono, which progresses to include Troy’s wife Rose and his son Lyons, played by Viola Davis and Russell Hornsby respectively.
The opening scene’s true-to-life feel and the genuine chemistry between the cast set the tone for the rest of the film, in which viewers will feel like a fly on the wall observing a real family interact. This believability draws you in and leaves you no choice but to become a part of the family, to the point that you can’t help but share the feelings of love, sacrifice, betrayal and loss that those on screen do.
An intimate and emotionally intense film, director Denzel Washington uses a small but exceptional cast to tackle issues such as abuse, racism, mental health and infidelity. Despite rarely venturing away from the Maxson home, the film doesn’t feel cramped or repetitive; rather it is a wonderful display of realism with subtle changes in what becomes a familiar set helping the audience to appreciate the growth and changes of the characters in the film.
Fences is a moving, believable, and overall outstanding film. The breadth of the issues the story covers, the compelling characters driving the plot, and the incredible performance of the entire cast will ensure no one leaves the cinema without having laughed, cried, gasped, or raised their hands in frustration – or some combination of them all.
Words by David Tate
Image by Paramount Pictures
Details: Fences | Drama | Released 09 February 2017 | 139 minutes | Rated PG