Adapted from a play written by August Wilson, Fences is the story of a middle-aged black man and his extended family during the 1950s. It is set in the Hill District of Pittsburgh against the backdrop of the racial realities of that time. The story pits the forces of bitterness versus the desire for love. Fences, ultimately, leaves the audience with a sense of hope.
In the first few minutes of the movie you just have to like Troy Maxson as played by Denzel Washington. He’s a working guy who feels he should be doing better and has a plan to make that happen. Troy has a good friend Bono, and their friendship warms the heart. Early in the film, you are also introduced to Rose, Troy’s second wife. As portrayed by Viola Davis, Rose is a strong, loving woman who does her best to hold the family together.
As the story develops, you watch Troy take some actions that you wish he hadn’t and discover bits about Troy’s past that make you feel remorse for what has occurred. Then finally you discover a situation that will impact the entire family profoundly.
About 80 percent of the way through the film, I realized that I still liked Troy Maxson, but not as much as I did initially.
For those brought up experiencing similar societal and family failings as shown in Fences, you might leave the theatre appreciating the talented individuals and how realistically they portrayed a gripping story. On the other hand, even if you have never walked any of the roads that Troy Maxon traveled, perhaps you’ll spend some time trying to understand why people do the things that they do.
Under Denzel Washington’s direction and acted by a talent cast, you are taken on a journey of joy and pain. Like the play, the movie uses Pittsburgh as its setting, and some of the cinematography is extremely effective. In 1983, when the play was first produced for the stage, theatre audiences found it relevant. The movie version, in too many ways, is still relevant today.
Staring Denzel Washington. Viola Davis and Stephen McKinley.
Directed by Denzel Washington
Fences was filmed in Pittsburgh in 2016