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Fences: Movie Review

Updated on January 4, 2017

Denzel Washington returns to the directors chair. This time he's adapting, and starring in, Fences. A stage play of the same name in which he also revived several years back in 2010. Along side him is actress, Viola Davis who stars as his wife in the movie, and in the play. The two veteran actor give moving performances, especially Davis, who plays a very heart-broken yet positive, and loyal partner to Denzel's character, Troy Maxson.

Troy is a garbage collector who is tired of collecting the garbage for living. He wants to drive the trash truck, and is upset that there are no black men driving the trucks when they should get the same opportunities as their white co-workers. Troy, and his family live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1950's. His brother who is mentally ill after taking a bullet to the head in World War 2, received a government payout of Three-Thousand dollars which Troy used to buy his house since he felt his brother was unfit to have that money.

His wife Rose watches over the household, and one day asks Troy to build her a fence separating their yard from their next door neighbors. Troy asks his youngest son, Cory to help him build it. Cory has mind set on football though, and would rather spend his time at practice seeing as he has a real good chance to earn a scholarship. Troy tells his son to put sports behind him since it'll get him nowhere. He has experience in rejection when he was once played in a negro baseball league, but was never given the chance to go to the Major's. Troy tells his son to benefit from his experience, and to keep his mind on his chores rather than in the clouds.

Within the home there are frequent visitors like, Bono, Troy's co-worker and old cell mate from prison. There is also, Lyon's Maxson, Troy's oldest son from a past relationship who is jazz musician, and occasionally asks for money to borrow, but promises to pay him back.

The movie deals in the hardships of life. Not of black men living in the 50's. The film makes it clear that it is not about racism even with the slight undertone of it below the surface, but of the every day man. The kind who works five days a week, long hours, and still feels like he can barely support his family. The film is also about regret, past mistakes, and the struggle every man deals with when it comes to his own mortality. Denzel Washington does a fantastic job representing a man stuck in the same spot in his life for more than a decade. Afraid that his son might be more talented than him, afraid that his wife is unsatisfied, and afraid of death, although he masks his fear of that by telling stories of how he once wrestled with the Grim Reaper, and won.

Denzel at times blocks the movie like play which doesn't translate well on film. The way he positions his camera, and the actors is very reminiscent of how you would see a stage play unfold. Even the dialogue is full of character monologues one would see an actor in theater recite when explaining important details to advance the plot. Most of that should have been left out, but when the film works, it works! There are personal close-ups, and well positioned shots that makes it obvious, Denzel Washington is as talented a filmmaker as he is a legendary actor.

The fence represents several theme's in the movie. For Rose, it is to preserve her little family. She knows how fragile life is, and even though she welcomes Lyon's into her home, she clearly is upset that he is not her child, and she even explains in the movie that her past consisted of being surrounded by multiple half brothers, and sisters, and she didn't want that for her own children.

For Troy, it is his ability to provide. To take care of his home, and it also takes a double meaning later on when he argues with death saying that when he build's his fence death would not be able to touch him, as he brags to the heavens, and continues to challenge death to come and get him because he will not go down with out a fight. The fence also shows the emotional barrier that Troy has built over the years.

You feel contempt for Troy, in the way he talks to his wife at times, and denies his youngest child the opportunity to be recruited by a university. He is a tough as nails, cynical, and regretful man. Yet his past was just as troubling. He had an abusive father. He works in a job he hates, and his opportunity to play baseball was also taken away. You understand him, you get him. I have dealt with many trials in my past, similar to Troy's. We have all worked at a dead end job we've hated. Heck, some of us might still be, but your life is what you make it, and that is what this movie is ultimately about. Fences, is one of the years best films. Clearly in the top 10 list of 2016, even if it's not masterful picture, but an important one.


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