A working-class African-American father tries to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.
Review by Louise Keller:
As hard hitting as a baseball whose game acts as a metaphor for the protagonist's life, Fences is a potent drama about survival, family and dreams - with sublime performances. In a superb adaptation of his Pulitzer prize winning play, playwright August Wilson provides a perfect vehicle for the talents of Oscar winner Denzel Washington.
Washington, who also directs the film, is magnificent as Troy Maxson, a flawed but decent man with strong views - about race, respect, relationships and duty. He also has an intense personal relationship with Death. 'Death is a fast ball on an outside corner,' he insists. As each character gnaws into our minds and hearts, we become consumed by its tumultuous journey. Emotions swirl as all the relationships are turned upside down. This is a film that grows on you.
In the opening sequence, when we meet Troy working as a trash collector with his best friend Bono (Stephen Henderson), he is the epitome of a man in control of his life. Animated and jovial, he chatters incessantly to his down to earth friend. It is payday and they share half a customary bottle of gin at the end of the day: the conversation is about work, baseball, money, death and the devil. 'He has more stories than the devil has sinners,' Bono says. Troy's wife Rose (Viola Davis) sits nearby with her tea and knitting; their relationship is close and loving as they joke and talk about everything life has on offer.
Soon we meet the other key players and gradually discover their relationship with Troy. There is his older son Lyons (Russell Hornsby) who lives for his music; his teenage baseball-mad son Corey (Jovan Adapo) and mentally disabled brother Gabe (Mykelti Williamson), who lost his faculties during the war. Each brings out a different side of Troy; disapproval, hardline discipline and guilt. The key to our understanding Troy and his actions is his past, which is revealed slowly as the exposition develops.
While Troy uses baseball terminology to describe his life's philosophy and dreams, Rose (Viola Davis) uses gardening to describe hers. The climactic scene when Troy and Rose bare their souls to each other in the small enclosed garden where much of the action takes place is one of the film's most powerful. Davis' tears flow directly from the heart, following a revelation that becomes the turning point for all the relationships. She is fearsomely good. We feel what she feels. It is at this point that the tone changes. In baseball terms, this is the curved ball that life throws.
As for the fences of the title: are they to keep people out or in? It is not until the scene in which Troy has an animated imaginary conversation with Death that we understand their significance. Without doubt, the film belongs to Washington, who inhabits his character with such voracity that the actor disappears from view. We get the feeling that we are seeing the best of the best. This is an emotional experience you will not want to miss!
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CAST: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney, Christopher Mele
PRODUCER: Todd Black
DIRECTOR: Denzel Washington
SCRIPT: August Wilson (play by August Wilson)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
EDITOR: Hughes Winborne
MUSIC: Marcelo Zarvos
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Gropman
RUNNING TIME: 139 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 9, 2017