FENCES, directed and starring Denzel Washington and based on the play of the same name, focuses on one man’s frustration with racism and inequality in the 1950s.
Troy (Washington) is a man filled with thoughts of ‘what if’. His life, in his eyes, in one of missed opportunities. And the reason he wasn’t given those opportunities? Because of his skin colour. He’s a frustrated and angry man, and probably an alcoholic. He’s abusive and obnoxious yet Washington plays the character which such depth and vulnerability that it’s hard not to empathise with him. There’s moments of love and affection towards his family that keep him somewhat likeable and compelling as a character.
Along with Washington, Viola Davis delivers a fantastic performance as his wife, Rose, who has given up her life to stand by his side. Their relationship is complex and there clearly is affection between the pair but there’s resentment there also. There are times you feel like they are perfectly suited for each other and other times you feel like Rose is under the thumb. It’s a really compelling relationship and you’re never quite sure if you’re rooting for them or not. The film is at it’s strongest when the two are together. Their relationship feels so real. It’s not perfect but it’s the best option both of them has.
The film is set almost entirely in Troy and Rose’s back yard, clearly an influence of being an adaptation of a stage production and as a result, the film does feel quite slow at times. There’s long, dramatic monologues that feel slightly out of place on film in 2017. It makes you wonder if it could have been better adapted to suit the cinema.
That’s not to take anything away from the film, which’s main triumph is its performances. Washington and Davis lead an all round excellent cast which make the story compelling as we learn more about each character and discover why they behave in the ways they do.
EXCELLENT. A character study driven by excellent performances.