It’s immediately clear Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are comfortable in their roles as husband and wife Troy and Rose Maxson in Fences; after all, they played the same parts on stage in 2010 and won Tony Awards for their performances.
Although it’s quite apparent that the movie is based on a tale penned for the stage, with its centring on the Maxson household, there’s just as much emotion from the two leads in front of the camera as there would be in front of an audience.
When we first meet Troy he’s collecting trash in 1950s Pittsburgh with his long-time friend Bono (Stephen Henderson), sharing his anger over how a white man is allowed to drive the truck. It’s this scene that sets the running theme of the film and gives the viewers their first glimpse of the character’s bitterness over white supremacy.
But he still remains upbeat and outgoing and to celebrate it being Friday, and payday, he invites Bono back for a drink in his backyard where they’re joined by Troy’s wife Rose.
As Troy’s monologues continue throughout the film, detailing his past in which he killed a man mid-robbery and was sent to prison where he discovered his talents for baseball, his hardships become more and more clear. So you can’t really blame him for feeling disgruntled when his estranged son from a previous relationship, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), comes round every Friday to borrow $10, though more worrying is the way he treats his and Rose’s son Cory (Jovan Adepo). Upon learning his youngest boy has managed to land himself the chance to become a professional sportsman, rather than support him Troy becomes obsessed with the idea that he won’t get anywhere because of the “white man”, though it’s clear by now that Troy missed his own chance due to his age and criminal record.
With tensions continuing to grow amid the family, also including Troy’s brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) who suffered a head injury during World War II, more drama arises, giving an average story a larger-than-life feel.
Despite it being a niche tale, Fences can reach out to anyone feeling trapped in their lives or regretting moments from their past and to witness the struggles of a working black man in 1950s America is eye-opening in itself. Washington truly becomes Troy, pouring his emotions into the role and investing himself fully, while Davis continues to give another heart-wrenching performance following stints in The Help and Prisoners. It’s no wonder the film received so many Oscar nods as its one that doesn’t come around too often, focusing on the repercussions a person’s past has on the person they are today.
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