• Guy Jeffries

Fences Review


Director: Denzel Washington.

Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Saniyya Sidney, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby.

Now there's quite a history to this film, or rather, play written by August Wilson which was first performed at Eugene O'Neill Theatre in Waterford, Connecticut back in 1983, going on to be performed on Broadway in 1987 and winning the Tony award for best play. James Earl Jones took the lead role of Troy Maxon, the working class garbage man of a 1950's Pittsburgh and Mary Alice playing Rose, the devoted wife. It ran for over a year totalling more than 525 shows including previews to then be revived in 2010, winning three more Tony awards for best revival play, best actor and best actress who were incidentally Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. In fact, apart from Jovan Adepo and Saniyya Sidney (also in this year's Hidden Figures) all the original 2010 stage cast remain in their respectable roles. If anyone ever wondered what UK comedian Lenny Henry has been up to in recent years, he played the lead role in the UK play version back in 2013.

It's August Wilson's first play to be adapted for film and is the sixth play of his ten part Pittsburgh Cycle which chronicles America's black history over the century, each play set in a different decade. Sadly, he passed away in 2005 so he isn't here to see his work eventually hitting the big screen but he's received a posthumous Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay, an Oscar I think he might win.

It's Denzel Washington's third time at the helm after his Antwone Fisher and The Great Debators. Both films starring himself as with this one being no exception playing the lead role of Troy Maxon, the opinionated patriarch. Washington makes his presence known with an outstanding performance, but at times I was thinking he was too much, but of course, having played the part more than a hundred times, it's familiar ground, not just for him but for the rest of the cast also, bar the two previously mentioned.

Viola Davis possibly gives her most defining performance in her cinematic career as Rose Maxon, Troy's loving wife and mother to their teenage son, Cory. Again, having portrayed the part in the revived Broadway production, you can tell she's well versed with playing Rose. Her composure, emotional tolerance is incredible and deserves all the nominations she gets.

Mykelti Williamson also, gives what I believe to be his greatest performance as Troy's mentally ill brother, Gabriel who is a joy to watch. In fact, all the performances are outstanding and cannot be faulted, however, they feel like like they're all competing with Washington's Troy, who is very outspoken, bitter and stuck in an era that's slipping away. It's only Davis' Rose that steals a little of Troy's thunder, but I wanted to see more of her.

It's an amazing testament to American history within a changing society, focusing on a far-from-perfect, working class family. It's clearly a play with some brilliant scriptwriting, and you can envision how this might appear on stage, actually inspiring me to want to go watch it should I be given the chance. It reminded me very much of other play adapted films like Death of a Salesman, Glengarry Glen Ross and A Few Good Men and like those, the screen version has brought to life an incredible story.

I feel with the hype around Davis' performance, it may leave some viewers, like myself, feel disappointed but only because there's not enough of her, when comparable to Washington's. The film is brilliant, highly credible and well captured by Washington, however, the story falls somewhere towards the end, and whilst there's a strong conclusion, coming full swing, I felt it lacked the impact. Certainly a must-see regardless.

Running Time: 7

The Cast: 10

Performance: 10

Direction: 9

Story: 9

Script: 10

Creativity: 9

Soundtrack: 7

Job Description: 7

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Yes.

78% 8/10

#AugustWilson #DenzelWashington #ViolaDavis #JovanAdepo #SaniyyaSidney #MykeltiWilliamson #StephenHenderson #RussellHornsby #MarceloZarvos