Ron Griffith reviews Denzel Washington’s film adaptation of Fences, out in the UK on 17 February 2017.
Fences is a cinematic adaptation of the acclaimed 1983 play by August Wilson, following the far-reaching repercussions of a charismatic yet conflicted 1950s Pittsburgh Garbageman Troy Maxson as he makes his way through life. The story itself touches on many themes including, love, race, and betrayal.
Following the initial 1987 run on Broadway, the production won numerous Tony Awards, including Best Play, Best Direction of a Play, James Earl Jones’ second Best Lead Actor in a Play win and a Best Lead Actress in a Play win for Mary Alice.
The 2010 return to the theatre starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in the lead roles met with similar success, garnering wins for Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance of an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, and Best Performance of an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play.
Denzel Washington stars in and directs the film adaptation, bringing with him the majority of the theatrical cast of the 2010 New York production. Although the strictly limited locations and the intensive dialogue reinforces the feeling of a story originally adapted from a play, the nuanced synergy of the 2010 ensemble cast brings the story to life on the big screen.
Whether it is through the internal conflict brought about by trying desperately not to like the rambunctious yet somewhat bitter characterization of Troy, or suppressing the urge to spontaneously applaud Viola Davis’ scene in which she justifiably excoriates the guilty, Fences is a poignant piece of storytelling which evokes bittersweet emotional responses that last long after the final credits roll.
This film has a rich tapestry of internal conflicts between it’s characters, and has been generously directed, so that each member of the speaking cast is given their respective moment in the sun. Aside from the well crafted performance of the leads, special mention should also be made of Mykelti Williamson, Russel Hornsby, Stephen Henderson and Jovan Adepo, who all bring worthy contributions to this intense and often rewarding tale.
Fences is well worth viewing, discussing, and continuing it’s legacy of winning awards.
Seeing this film on the big screen is also an experience to be treasured. See it