Fences - Official Review
By Brian Wallinger
On the surface, Fences appears to be a film about fathers and sons, however, at its core, this is a film about family. In the end, family is everything, for better or worse.
Denzel Washington not only gives the best performance of his career, he also delivers a masterfully directed film based on August Wilson's award winning play. The story involves a blue collar garbage man working day to day, doing everything he can to make ends meet as well as provide for his wife and youngest son who he is at odd with due to him wanting to pursue a chance to play professional football.
Denzel's character wants his son to work a job and not focus on dreams. Holding onto guilt and regrets from his troubled past leads the father to drink and often finds him telling stories of his past and all that he "could have been". The story progressively defines itself, as well as the characters'. Each scene feels like a Broadway performance, rich in dialogue and an effective cast, with both Washington and Viola Davis reprising their roles from the renowned play.
The story comes to a cross road where we find ourselves watching Denzel breakdown and detach himself from his responsibilities to his family. This is a story that takes place in a time where there was no internet, when people actually communicated face to face, people did what they had to do to make it and sometimes not everything they did was good.
The heart of Fences is about giving up on our dreams to provide for the ones we love, no matter how bad things are socially or economically, because as humans, we have an obligation to contribute to our communities. We may have arguments with our fathers and mothers. We may do and see things that are questionable. There's no instruction manual to life. Things don't always go our way.
Despite the grim set up, Fences reminds the viewer that things can get better, and that forgiveness can always be found. We grow up and we give those we love the best we have to offer even though we may be suffering. Fences is in my humble opinion, the biggest and most challenging film of Washington's career, both with his performance and direction. It is without a doubt one of the most important films to be made this decade.
Aside from both Davis and Washington's phenomenal performances, the film's cinematography is powerfully subtle and the entire ensemble are normal, and yet complex and engaging. Every word, every movement can be felt. Washington and Davis both will certainly give the Oscar's a run for their money. Their exchanges are some of the best examples of character acting ever conceived. Davis steals the spotlight, filled with the conflict of being a woman at time when men were looked at to be superior, while Washington contrasts her by deftly embodying a man slowly being consumed by failure and alcohol abuse. It all leads to a conclusion between a mother and her children standing in the backyard of the house where most of the story takes place, looking towards the sky watching the light finally come down over them. The light is something all of us could use more of. It's just that sometimes we have to suffer through darkness to find it.