A review of the recent film “Fences”

This is the film adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning 1983 stage play written by August Wilson who refused to have the work made for the big screen unless there was an African-American director helming it. It tells the poignant tale of Troy Maxson, a black waste collector in 1950s Pittsburgh who received no love from his own father and cannot find any for his own sons.

The challenge with any film of a play is to avoid the outcome being more of a play than a film. This danger is especially acute when the author of the play is also is the writer of the film’s script, when the two leading stars of the film – Denzel Washington as the truculent Troy and Viola Davis as his loyal wife Rose – are reprising their roles in a Broadway revival of the play, and when the main star (Washington) is also the producer and director for whom this was clearly a passion project.

So what we have here is a tour de force performance from Washingron and outstanding support from Davis (both received Academy Award nominations) in a work full of magnificent dialogue and scenes of considerable pathos, but the whole thing is just too reverential to the original play with too little movement and too many words for the different medium of cinema.


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