Fences (2016) Movie Review

‘Fences’ | Paramount Pictures

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play, Fences tells the story of Troy and Rose Maxson (Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, respectively) as they experience life in Pittsburgh during the 1950s and the difficulties faced when raising their teenaged son, Cory (Jovan Adepo). It also stars Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby and is directed by lead actor, Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher, The Great Debaters).

My Thoughts On The Characters And Story

First things first: Viola Davis and Denzel Washington give two of the best performances of the year in Fences. The only way the Maxsons would work in this film would be to have two actors that can work so well off each other and have the emotional range to effectively portray their characters. Since the film is so dialogue-heavy, it is imperative to have actors that can pull off scenes that contain those long-takes and occasional monologuing sequences. It was a legitimate privilege seeing Davis and Washington put their absolute all in these roles that earned them acting Tonys for its play adaptation.

See Denzel and Viola winning their respective Tonys below:

The film is ultimately a character-driven work with rapid dialogue and Washington’s directing style gears toward those long takes and wide shots with multiple characters on screen; I personally adore this genre and I loved watching the actors in Fences. The secondary characters do a fine job with their roles, Jovan Adepo who portrays Cory was probably the weakest link but he was still serviceable, however the reason to watch Fences is to witness the brilliantly talented Davis and Washington in their element. Davis specifically had one sequence where I had to take a deep breath following it because it hit so hard. She is a revelation in Fences and it would be a legitimate travesty if she is not nominated for her performance. I have no idea how these guys memorized HALF of the stuff in this movie. Denzel Washington is incredible as the patriarch who increasingly frustrates the living hell out of you, yet he works as well as he does because he has Viola Davis with him. The film follows a certain period of their lives for a majority of it with an emphasis placed on Washington’s character and the relationship with his son. The hardships that endure their relationship is brilliantly uncomfortable to watch at times… I mean like, you’ll physically wince at some of the things that Troy says to other characters.

Although certain sequences linger, the progression of events is wonderfully executed and there were occasional moments where I was genuinely enthralled with what was on screen and I needed to know what would happen next.

How Were The Other Aspects To ‘Fences’?

Fences is fantastically directed by Washington for his third addition to his directing filmography behind Antwone Fisher and the movie every high school English class shows at least once a semester, The Great Debaters. He utilizes wide shots and there are the instances where he frames the characters so that you literally feel like you are looking in uncomfortably on these characters as they’re arguing, one incredibly effective use of this included the fence that is constantly referenced throughout the film. That is another aspect I admired, where you learn certain things about a character and later on when you expect them to execute the same trait, they surprise you and I loved that. The conclusion had a smidgen of cheese with it that I was not a huge fan of but I understood why they executed it that way.

The film is also incredibly atmospheric, you genuinely feel like you are in the time period it is set in. Everything from the costumes to the set design to the occasional hints of music it utilizes is all true to the time period and I adored it, as I am a huge fan of period pieces.


If you’re looking for a dialogue-heavy, character drama with some ridiculously talented performances, check out Fences.

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Fences receives 4/5 Matt Damon heads.



      • This film is glued together with intimacy and connection. Its not that the characters are likeable, just very human and authentic. We find bits of ourselves in all of them. Thats what makes this such a universal narrative. Thanks for dropping by Ghezal.


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