Review: ‘Fences’- Denzel Washington and Viola Davis shine in this August Wilson adaptation

Fences, based on his Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name, is a family melodrama directed by and starring Denzel Washington as a father and husband wrestling with the ghosts of his past and the struggles of his present. This powerful story is rooted deep with the effects of how racial divide leaves an impression on the African American family. Filled with outstanding performances delivering one of the most impactful screenplays in recent memory, Fences will touch you deep and leave a lasting impression on your soul.

Troy (Denzel Washington) is a 53 year old father of two, struggling to stay afloat as a trash collector in Pittsburgh, PA. Troy grew up mostly on his own since the age of 14, trying to make ends meet and facing the impending birth of his first child. After being sent to prison for a violent crime, Troy learned how to play baseball, having spent time practicing while in prison, and became a star in the Negro leagues, but never made it to the Major Leagues due to the color barrier. He lives with his wife, Rose (Viola Davis), a strong, supportive woman who’s responsible for creating a calming force and a stable and loving life that Troy has been craving. Rose gave birth to Troy’s second child, Cory (Jovan Adepo), a young, talented athlete who is desperately seeking the approval of his father all while trying to carve out a path for success in his young life.

Troy’s first son, Lyon (Russell Hornsby), is an aspiring musician and the first to feel the pinch of his fathers judgement. A man looking to prove he can walk his own path and live up to the large shadow his father has left before him. Troy and Rose are also responsible for Troy’s younger brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), an ex-soldier who suffered a brain injury while fighting for his country. The pressures of life are closing in around Troy and an unexpected choice changes the landscape for his family forever. Troy and Rose are faced with a future of uncertainty and doubt and a family torn down to its foundation. Can the strength of a lasting love help mend the cracks or are they destined to see the future from different sides of the fence?

Denzel Washington delivers one of his finest performances in his storied career. A deeply flawed man who’s buried the pain of his past deep in order to carve out a stronger future for his family resonates loudly in his portrayal. Viola Davis is exceptional as Rose and delivers an Oscar winning performance in this emotional tour de force. To watch such a strong woman broken down to be reborn anew is an wondrous journey to behold. Young Jovan Adepo shines are Cory. His inner struggle to find something to connect with his father is something every child can relate to. The parallels between his performance and that of Russell Hornsby provide a clarity to the sins of the father and how easy it is to lose touch with how your actions can impact those you are responsible for. Mykelti Williamson delivers a heart breaking performance as the physically impaired brother of Troy. His journey through the story acts as a reminder to Troy that it takes sacrifice, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, to remind you of what you have and why you have it.

Overall, Fences is an incredible story and one to be cherished for generations to come. It’s a painful journey through struggle and pain, but a satisfying reminder to cherish what you’ve been given.


3 1/2 out of 5