Fences review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Fences features two of the most prominent African-American actors to date: Denzel Washington playing the quintessential working man Troy Maxson, and Viola Davis as his stoic but emotionally supportive wife Rose Maxson who together go through life’s challenges for better or worse. Now, this may sound like it’s being lifted straight out of a theater brochure, and this is mainly due to the fact that Fences is indeed an adaptation of a stage play that director Denzel Washington (yes, he directs and acts in the film as well) chose to keep that theater look and feel through and through (down to some prominent details even). And therein lies the catch: adapting a stage play into a screenplay is a tough job to do right, but Denzel and his team might have pulled it off regardless.
The film revolves Denzel Washington who, as said, is a blue collar American citizen trying his best to raise a family in 1950s America. His past continues to haunt him to this very day as all the blame gets assigned to the “white man”; and so, his son feels these past tremors in the form of discouragements from everything in life, and particularly sports, something young Cory (Jovan Adepo) is very fond of doing. But no, the ways of Troy are those of spite, and not of love, although one can argue that tough is how Troy experiences love. To make matters even harder for the Maxson family, Cory’s brother Gabriel (played brilliantly by Mykelti Williamson) is mentally-challenged and even the littlest things in life come hard for him to properly do. Troy knows this, but he is a real stoic in his demeanor, although deep down he is hurt and he suffers for Gabriel’s unfortunate fate. Which is kind of paradoxical, since Troy believes in everything BUT fate.
Then there’s Viola Davis as Rose Maxson, nailing a tremendous performance that would surely secure her an Oscar this year (an overrated honour in my humble opinion and one that’s way overdue, but until an alternative arises, there’s nothing we can do to stop the charade). Anyways, Rose is subtle in her actions, with her reserved emotions playing well against Troy’s numerous imperfections. Finally, she gets the spotlight later in the film, as all the accrued emotional baggage suddenly erupt in Troy’s face and ground him to reality which he so desperately avoided doing. And everything feels as real as it can get, with no shortcuts, side-steps, or any of the sorts: Fences manages to portray true life in its purest, most carnal form ever put to screen.
Finally, Fences is a difficult experience to endure, but one that’s worthy of your hard-earned time and money. A film of this magnitude is made every 10 years or so, and Fences is definitely a member of that club.