The 1987 Tony Award and Pulitzer Price winning play Fences by August Wilson has been given a screen revamp from Denzel Washington, his third time behind the camera.
Fences is a struggle concerning an over the hill ex baseball player, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) trying to overcome the monotonous burden of life whilst balancing the definition of the word family throughout his home. Husband to Rose (Viola Davis), Father to Cory (Jovan Adepo) and Lyons Maxson (Russell Hornsby) and Brother to war-injured Gabe Maxson (Mykelti Williamson), Denzel explores the struggles of what it is to be a family man in a world where it’s so easy for everything you hold and dear to be ripped apart.
It is Troy’s up-most regret never succeeding as a professional baseball player. At a time in America where being a person of colour was a struggle of rights and defiance – his playing days preceded the dismantling of the Negro-League, never truly being given a chance to show his worth in the big leagues. He is now a 53-year-old sanitation worker. He pulls himself out of bed every Monday morning and repeats each day until that horn blows at 5pm on Friday, where he wanders home, buddied by Jim Bono (Stephen Mckinley Henderson) and a bottle of gin. He falls into the weekend, where the main events of Fences are unravelled on screen. His boys are dreamers, Cory, a 16-year-old kid with dreams of making it in American Football, and Lyons, a 34-year-old jazz musician still trying to succeed through art. Their grand ideas of becoming something more than just a hands-on worker drive a wall through the family, Troy and Cory’s relationship doomed to the pits of disagreement. His wife, Rose (Viola Davis) is normally a pillar of support to Troy, a pillar that is about to be shaken and rattled by the stormy sea of doubt inside their family. Troy’s failing regrets in life throw themselves to his surface; incarceration, an unfulfilled dream, adultery.
Washington is fantastic as Troy, a typhoon of emotion swirling his way into the Best Actor nomination at the upcoming Oscars. Throwing herself into the worry and turmoil of being a supportive wife to a husband straying off the narrow line of being a good man, Viola Davis’ heart wrenching display sees her seated alongside Denzel at the same table, fully deserving of her nomination for Best Supporting Actress. And the acting is the clear quality of Fences; its strength overcoming the lack of cinematic power which is hard to achieve when adapting from the stage.
And the acting is all Fences has to hold itself up. Ultimately it is a 2-hour slog bolstered by fantastic explosions of drama and hard-hitting industrial dialogue. Troy fails to build the fence surrounding the back-lot of their home, Denzel does not do enough to drive home it’s metaphor.
With Fences, Washington has swung for row Z of Hollywood’s elite arena and has been awarded with a 2017 Best Director and Best Film nomination for his efforts.