"Fences" is an extraordinary film about a fictional black family living in Pittsburgh in the '50s. What makes this film so enjoyable is that there are a collection of dynamic characters at various stages of their lives.
“‘Fences’ is a film about how our environment shapes us, and how, no matter how noble their intentions, our parents can’t help but mess us up in some fashion, just as their parents had done for them.” - Link
The screenplay is an adaptation of an August Wilson Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same title. It is a part of a series of plays titled "the Pittsburgh Cycle" that aims to give an experience of what life was like for African Americans throughout the entire 20th century. Each play takes part in a different decade, "Fences" being set in the '50s.
“ ‘Fences,’ the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by August Wilson, was written in 1983 and had its premiere on Broadway in 1987” - Link
What I appreciated the most about Fences is how well this film demonstrates the complexity of the characters, their relationships with one another, and most of all, their relationship with the world around them.
The protagonist, Troy Maxim, is the origin of most of the drama in this story. Troy is an African American man born near the end of the 19th century and is most likely older than a half-century at the start of this film. He is filled with wisdom gained through experience but still capable of making the wrong choices.
Right by Troy's side is Rose, played by Viola Davis, his wife of 18 years. Also, Jim Bono, played by Stephen Henderson, is his best friend he met before Rose. Rose and Troy have a teenage son, Cory, played by Jovan Adepo, who wants to be a stud athlete like his father. On Paydays, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), Troy's first son, makes a predictable appearance at their home. Then there is Troy's brother, Gabriel (played by Mykelti Williamson). This military veteran suffered a head injury in the Korean War.
“The acting is all superb.” - Link
Denzel Washington and his cast put on one captivating performance. The way he animates Troy Maxim earned him an academy and Golden Globe nomination for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role." Denzel's co-star, Viola Davis, matched his performance with an acting performance earning her an Academy and Golden Glove awards for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role." To add, I found the other actors in this film's performances were award-worthy. For example, Russell Hornsby delivers a captivating monologue. Also, Mykelti Williamson's performance of Gabriel is as impactful, if not more, than his role of "Bubba" in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump."
“[I]f you closed your eyes and just listened to “Fences” you would hear a verbal performance of unmatched force and nuance.” - Link
You spend most of the film with Troy and his small family and friend in their small backyard listening to Troy narrating his somewhat autobiography. Troy shares these stories while building a backyard fence. Through these stories told by Troy, you get insight into how the decades, essentially the first half of the 20th century, have shaped the black man the other characters surround and love.
Fences speak more about the world at that time than it does about its characters. In a way, the characters are merely a tool to comment on the plight of African-Americans in the United States in the '50s, a pivotal decade for African-Americans.
"Fences" is a must-see film. It might be my favorite Denzel Washington starring film. In under 2 hours (160 minutes), This film takes you through a fascinating journey that will make you laugh, make you anxious, and you may even shed a tear. But this story should stick in a person's mind for days, if not weeks.