‘Fences’ is based off the 1983 August Wilson play of the same name, set in the 1950’s it centres around a garbage collector Troy Maxson who’s duty it is to care and provide for his family in the best way that he sees fit. Denzel Washington directs this adaptation and alongside Viola Davis they reprise their roles from the 2010 revival of the award winning play in which they both received ‘Tony’ awards for the lead actor/actress categories. This film here harbours phenomenal performances across the board from the lead roles to supporting, the screenplay and dialogue is very captivating and near flawless throughout, and the way it is shot through the eye of Denzel puts a very polished touch on every scene. One thing to note is that this is a heavily dialogue driven film, 95% of it takes place in one location and highlights conversations between 2, 3, or 4 characters. Much of this film consists of simply talking, as it is a character study focusing on the relationships revolving around Troy and his family. But with the expertly written dialogue and the fantastic line delivery by the performers you can help but be engaged in the majority of this film.
You get so many long scenes set in this Pittsburgh yard with characters conversing where you learn more and more about their histories and the various connections they share with each other. And it is all so captivating, the delivery of every line feels so real and authentic and the emotion behind every piece of dialogue is there and you feel like at times this is a documentary or a look into a real 1950’s household filled with real people. The discussions that occur just manage to completely suck you in and the way the camera just slowly pans around during these scenes is beautiful to just admire. The filmmaking behind these scenes is so spot on that you have to think that Denzel ended up 6th in the Best Director category because he just does a fantastic job here behind and in front of the camera.
But the performances are what you are really looking out for when you see this film. Everyone is great in their roles including all of the supporting cast such as Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Jovan Adepo, and Mykelti Williamson who all perfected their characters adding to the emotional elements of the film. But the real stars here are no doubt Denzel and Viola Davis who completely steal every scene they are in just commanding the screen with every word and every expression. If you ever need a reel to show people why Denzel and Viola are two of the greater actors working today just show them this movie. It is the perfect film to highlight the talent and range they both have as actors. They both have that one scene you know they will show at the Oscars as their nomination clip but really if you just take any 10 second clip from this film you will get the point across just as well as they never once break character. The Best Actor category at the Oscars is a stacked one but i’d say it is neck and neck between Denzel and Affleck to take it home. With Best Actress i previously thought Emma Stone was a lock for ‘La La Land’ but with what Viola managed to do in this film i wouldn’t be surprised if she takes it from right under her nose.
Now with all the praise i am giving this film it is still not for everyone as i mentioned it is extremely dialogue driven and on top of that very very slow. But not the kind of slow that lingers on boring parts of a film, it has a very deliberately slow pace necessary to let all of the emotion have its full effect. But there are times during this film where the pacing kinda does have a slightly negative effect as this movie is fucking long as shit. It clocks in at roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes which isn’t too farfetched for a movie in Hollywood today but combined with the pace of the scenes it does feel like an eternity at times. Overall it probably felt like i had been watching for almost 4 hours by the end of the movie, now, where the majority of that time i was very engaged there were sections where it was starting to lose me. Not that the scenes were bad but when 13 minutes of dialogue feels longer that 30 minutes i’m going to tune out for a bit….. but that’s just me.
So in the end this really is a phenomenally crafted film worth seeing for the performances alone. It is a very ‘Oscar’ focused movie for obvious reasons but it does have a compelling story and great dialogue to still keep you invested in a lot of the scenes. The length and perception of time whilst watching this film does sort of damage it for me but everyone is different so check it out and judge for yourself.