Sometimes a film is not about the story it tells rather it is centered around the acting. Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis is a masterclass in acting. The two take turns showing you how it is done. They are so good the words they are saying don’t even really register. It is all about the emotions they are conveying and how natural they make it all seem.
When you have acting titans like Washington and Davis onscreen together you are basically expecting a tour de force from the pair. And that is exactly what you get. The two are a marvel. No matter if they are acting together or with someone else. It really doesn’t matter. There are plenty or words or dialogue for these two greats to sink their teeth into. They take the words they are given and run with them. The material here, despite the fact you know the talent involved, allows them to spread their wings and go places many of us have not seen them venture before. No shortage of drama to play out. With emotions and moral dilemmas aplenty, you will find yourself switching back and forth between love and hate for Troy.
Fences is the first film and screenplay by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist August Wilson (The Piano Lesson), who died in 2005. It concerns an Aftrican-American man named Troy (Denzel Washington – Training Day, Glory), his wife Rose (Viola Davis – from television’s How to Get Away With Murder), their son Cory (Jovan Adepo – from television’s The Leftovers), and Troy’s friend and co-worker Bono (Stephen Henderson – Manchester By the Sea, Tower Heist). Set in the 1950s in Pittsburgh, it centers on Troy, his life and the words that come out of his mouth. Plenty of words. A dialogue driven film.
Race relations plays a big part in Fences. That despite there are no scenes of racism and basically no white people in the film. It doesn’t matter as you feel the racism through Troy’s behaviour and stories of it. How he feels that he was denied the opportunity to play professional baseball because he is black despite being talented. The fact that he is picking up the garbage bins and throwing them into the back of the truck rather than driving one. All this leaves such a sour taste in his mouth that he denies his teenage son the opportunity to play football because he believes they will not allow a black man achieve any kind of success.
When his life becomes too much or more accurately too little for him, Troy makes a decision that affects everyone. When his secret comes out it will be left to Rose to decide how the rest of their lives as a family turns out.
The only criticism I can muster up about the film is that it is not for everyone. That is because it retains the feel of the play it is based upon. Director Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher, The Great Debaters) cannot seem to come up with a way to make it lose that play feel about it. As such it took a while for me to settle into. But that is the same case with Shakespeare plays. If you want me to give you a reference. That is not a bad one, is it?
Not your typical holiday film, but definitely worth taking in. It is just one of ten plays August Wilson wrote about the black experience in the United States. Denzel Washington has vowed to bring them all to the big screen. After seeing the first, I say bring it on!