“Fences,” a relatable, heart-warming film

February 21, 2017

Based on a play beginning in the 1980’s, “Fences” features Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Both won Tony’s for their portrayals in the Broadway revival in 2010. The film is based on August Wilson, a black former baseball player who is portrayed by Washington with screen name Troy alongside his struggling family in Pittsburgh in the 1950’s and most notably his wife Rose, as played by Davis.

In many instances Troy boasts about what a ball player he was, even asserting he was better than new black players such as Jackie Robinson. He is proud to a fault and spends much of his time complaining about how hard he works, his desire for a promotion, and what he provides for the family.

Troy is one of those characters who one learns to love in the context of the movie. One can see the anger and resentment build up inside of him and in many ways, he takes this out on his youngest son, Cory (Jovan Adepo), by blocking way to college on an athletic scholarship. Since Troy was never able to fully capture his dream, he wants his sons to know what “real” hard labor feels like. While undoubtedly Troy sounds like a horrible person, somehow Washington makes him both sympathetic and pathetic. This juxtaposition within one character is just one of the beauties of this movie.

While Troy is one of the major characters, Davis fills the other role beautifully. She perfectly plays the devoted and loyal wife of that time. Even through his infidelities and outbursts, she remains by his side. In one scene, Troy says he has a hard time admitting he has stayed in the same place for eighteen years; Davis then replies that she has been there as well, by his side throughout everything.

Since “Fences” is based on a play, there are few characters and sets. Most of the action happens in the Maxsons’ house and backyard. Unlike many movies there is more talk than action; however, this enhances the quality of the movie. The viewer becomes much more familiar with each character and a better understanding forms. Without this understanding, for example, Troy would not be able to develop as a character in the viewers’ eyes. Instead, he would only be a mad, pathetic human being.

Washington and Davis undoubtedly are what make this movie so extraordinary. Having both played these parts in the 2010 revival of the play, one can tell they are both familiar with the characters. Each of them vanished into their role.

Although not everyone can relate to being a black couple living in a city in the 1950’s, there are still occurrences every family may be able to relive. Unlike other pieces where families are portrayed in the perfect image, almost as art, “Fences” takes a more practical approach. In this sense they win over the hearts of the viewer and anyone who watches is sure to be entranced.

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