Powerful, moving, ugly, honest. Denzel Washington’s third directing job, the film adaptation of the play Fences, is all of these things and more. I can't recall any other movie with as realistic representation of the dynamic of the black nuclear family as this. Set in the 1950’s, our first introduction to the main character of the film, Troy Maxson, is him discussing with his friend and fellow garbage man the possible trouble he might be in for standing up to his boss about not allowing blacks to drive the trucks.
From the beginning, the image of Troy as a hard working moral man with a loving wife and athlete son is developed. As time passes you start to see the chinks in the facade of their American Dream. There is no character in the film that can be completely explained; I could write at length about any of them. Little to no dialogue is changed from the original play’s script which at times can have excessive monologues and seem a bit “speechy”. The unnatural feel of the dialogue is offset by a cast of actors, Viola Davis being the shining light of them all. As Troy’s wife, she brings power and honesty to her role which manages to tie everything together perfectly. There was not a single instance in her whole performance in which she fell out of character.
Aesthetically, the film went to great lengths to stay true to the original work. There are almost no scenes outside of the house. Everything is retained there; the story is as the film’s title suggests, fenced in. The only evidence that the outside world even exists is via conversation amongst the actors. For the most part, you’re left in the dark, almost smothered by the monotony of the house. This feeling of being trapped is analogous to that of the main character and hence representative of other blacks throughout America during this time. Fences is a refreshing look into the black household devoid of over the top humour, overzealous religious undertones, and an unforced happy ending.