Deep into Oscar season, yet another film has emerged firing on all cylinders. This film, “Fences,” based on the celebrated play of the same name by renowned playwright August Wilson, showcases variety and depth in each aspect of film. Two powerhouse performances from both Denzel Washington and co-star Viola Davis make the whole film work. It’s also a strong directorial outing for Washington, who films a play that both he and Davis know like the back of their hands.
“Fences” follows the Maxson family trying to live a stable and average life in 1950s Pittsburgh, with family patriarch Troy Maxson (Washington) making the best for his family while working as a garbage collector. His wife, Rose (Davis) tries her best to turn a blind eye to Troy’s continuing frustrations with how his life has turned out compared to his dreams of playing baseball. Their son, Cory (Jovan Adepo), has aspirations to play college football, and Troy does not believe that he will go far with them due to racial tensions and his own experiences with racism.
This film is rife with suspenseful moments in every scene. Washington’s acting manages to convey an aura of fun permeated with simmering anger and frustration. While there is nothing flashy about Washington’s direction, he still performs exceptionally well behind the camera, the filming being efficient and natural.
It is Davis, however, that manages to steal the show in her role as Rose Maxson; she commands presence and goes toe-to-toe against Washington and everyone else, as her character serves as the moral center of the film. Davis gives the performance of a lifetime as she displays someone with much sensitivity and vulnerability.
While the entire film does feel rather subdued, it is brought to life by not only the performances but also the screenplay, which features incredibly rich dialogue adapted word-for-word from the play and credited to the late Wilson.
Based on the performances and story alone, this film is worth a full price of admission. It is a fantastic calling card for Davis in her career-defining performance and Washington in both direction and acting. “Fences” is definitely a contender for one of the best films of the year and something to look for at the Oscars.
Directed by: Denzel Washington
Release Date: Dec. 25, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5