Denzel’s newest film is an adaptation of a 1983 play by the same name written by August Wilson. It takes place in the 1950s- right after World War II. This has a direct impact on the lives of our main star, Denzel’s Troy Maxson and his family. I’ll get into that later.
The story follows Troy as he tries to make a living and survive. His character often tells tales that his wife Rose (Viola Davis) often prove to be partial-truths. We find out a lot about Troy as the film goes. We find that he had a son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby) before he married Rose, but had no contact with him. We later find out why. We find out that his and Rose’s son Cory (Jovan Adepo) is a big deal in high school football and is good enough to have recruiters interested.
We see Troy struggle with the difficulties of his past coming to haunt him at the time of the film. He constantly mentions having wrestled death, and gives different accounts of the story on different occasions. We hear the real story some ways into the movie and it is chilling. We learn about his past and his relationship with his dad. It is chilling. We hear about his relationship with his brother, Gabe (Mykelti Williamson) and it is humbling. We hear about how he met Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson) and it is both heartwarming and chilling. Throughout the film, we get to know the man he was, we see the man he is, and we hear about the man he becomes. We see his strained relationship with his sons, Lyons and Cory. Cory ultimately leaves home because of it. The second half of the film, we see the strained relationship between Rose and Troy.
However, the seemingly most depressing and yet heart warming relationship in this entire story is that between Troy and Gabe. Gabe is a war veteran who came back with brain trauma. A lot of the movie focuses on this relationship, both subtly and explicitly. Gabe carries a trumpet with him everywhere he goes so that he can play it for the Gates of Heaven to be open when the time is right. He chases hell hounds. He thinks Troy is mad at him. He barely eats. He sells fruits and vegetables out of a picnic basket.
I’m not gonna go into anything in the last 30 minutes, not one detail. But they are, probably, 30 of the best minutes of film of any of the 2017 Best Picture Nominees.
Fences is the story of a a flawed man trying to be perfect. He builds his wife a fence. Bono tells him “some people build fences to keep people out, others build them to keep people in” (I’m not sure if that’s word for word, but it’s close.) He explains that Rose wants to keep the family safe. This fence is a long time coming, and takes the duration of the movie. There are alternate meanings behind the title, but this is a good premise.
This movie is a fantastic piece of art detailing the struggles and successes of one man, and his family in an era that was not equal or just to them.