Director: Denzel Washington
Talent: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo
Released: 17th February
Based on the 1983 Pulitzer Prize winning play by August Wilson, Fences tells the story of Troy Maxson (Washington), an African-American waste collector and former Negro league baseball player in 1950s Pittsburgh whose bitterness over past disappointments threatens to derail his family life. It is an impeccably acted affair, with electrifying turns by Washington, who also directs, Viola Davis as his long-suffering wife, and newcomer Jovan Adepo as their headstrong son, but as is so often the case with stage-to-film adaptations, there is a real struggle to imbue the material with some kind of cinematic vitality.
This becomes particularly problematic in the final act, when Washington’s reverent, unobtrusive approach clashes with the heavily allegorical nature of Wilson’s play, personified by the character of Troy’s brain-damaged brother (Williamson), culminating in an ending that, while undoubtedly powerful on the stage, falls a little flat on the screen. That being said, the performances are more than good enough to justify a trip to the cinema; you just might be left wishing you’d gone to the theatre instead.
Words – Felipe Deakin