Fences: Bleak, but thought-provoking


“Fences” isn’t a comfortable watch.

The Denzel Washington flick, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, poses important questions about race, family and loyalty, and it isn’t easy to swallow.

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) lives with his wife, Rose (Viola Davis). Their son Cory aspires to become a college football player, earning an interview with a university recruiter based on his talent. However, Troy is skeptical, as he had failed to enter Major League Baseball when he was younger, blaming it on his status as an African-American in a white society.

“Fences” is often bleak. Washington’s character is constantly cynical and while some characters argue he was an enforcer of tough love who always meant well, some characters viewed him as simply selfish.

Watching that type of character create tensions in a family otherwise so loving and bonded makes for the opposite of a happy-go-lucky experience.

While the bleakness at points was wearying, Viola Davis’s performance as a broken but committed wife invigorated the movie with the energy and passion she brought to dialogue. I’d say the Golden Globe she just acquired for it is well-deserved, as is an Oscar nomination (hopefully).

The movie itself does feel like a play, in that monologues dominate the more than two-hour runtime. I felt I might enjoy it much more as a play, as movies don’t always lend themselves well to minutes and minutes of one character talking. However, I appreciated the movie for creating a bigger audience for a poignant narrative.

However cloudy the sky seemed as characters encountered misfortune, the movie is jampacked with life lessons and thoughtful reflections of what family really means. While sometimes difficult to process, as is life itself, “Fences” is a story worth telling.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)