Fences

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Fences
"As a family saga in the tradition of O'Neill and Miller, August Wilson reveals its destructive nature"

If cinema is a visual medium, theatre is verbal. Literature, on the other hand, can be manipulated to suit either.

Here we have a play by African-America's answer to Arthur Miller, directed and performed by Denzel Washington. Black gold, surely.

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What gleams in the mind's eye may look dull in the light of day. Fences is not dull, but it is a play and Denzel makes no attempt to widen its parameter.

Like Willy Loman in Death Of A Salesman Troy Maxson (Washington) is a man who carries the weight of disappointment with difficulty. Once he was a contender; now he collects garbage for the city.

He's a big man who likes to tell jokes, an ex-baseball star in the days before wild wages and the lifting of the colour bar. His kids have different ideas. Lyons (Russell Hornsby) wants to play trumpet in a jazz band and is ridiculed by his father for not having a proper job. His younger son, Cory (Jovan Adepo), is in the high school football team but Troy won't allow him to train for a possible pro career.

As a family saga in the tradition of O'Neill and Miller, August Wilson reveals its destructive nature. Troy conceals his weakness by dominating conversations and bullying his offspring until the emotional and physical violence becomes difficult to excuse, or accept, leaving the stage open for his long suffering wife (Viola Davis) to emerge as the beating heart of all their lives.

The performances are strong, especially those of Davis and Adepo. Troy's is a bravura role, as large as it is gift wrapped for any actor of character. Denzel does not disappoint and yet as director exposes a reluctance to take risks with the content.

The film remains enclosed, talking up a storm within the confines of the set.

Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2017
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Fences packshot
Pittsburgh in the Fifties exposes the prejudice and failed ambition of an ex-baseball contender/now garbage collector and how it affects the hopes and dreams of his family

Director: Denzel Washington

Writer: August Wilson, based on his play

Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Stephen Henderson, Saniyya Sidney, Christopher Mele, Lesley Boone, Jason Silvis

Year: 2016

Runtime: 138 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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