In his third time as a director, Denzel Washington gives new life to August Wilson’s classic play. Washington himself plays Troy Maxson, a family patriarch who betrays his loyal wife, Rose, and proves to be an overbearing father to his son, Cory. Washington gives a nuanced performance as Troy, effectively portraying a prideful family man wrestling with the race relations of the 1950s, family dynamics, and ultimately Death itself. Viola Davis is a vision as Rose Maxson, playing the character in such a way that the sheer intensity of the gamut of human emotion is put on display for the audience’s benefit and breathlessness, not only permitting but forcing the audience to experience her character’s feelings of conflict, love, and despair to their fullest extent. A strong supporting cast complements and buoys the performances delivered by the leading actors.
The effort to transfer the story from the stage to the big screen may seem rocky at some points, but where the film falters in technical strength it makes up for with the fullness of its story and its actors’ performances. A commentary on race, family, and the choices people make to hurt and hold back the ones they love, Fences is a film that may prove to be as enduring – if not more so – as its source material.