Fences: A wonderful work of adaptation

Denzel Washington stars in and produces one of this year’s best films

Oscar season is in full bloom and moviegoers have been spoiled this year with an extensive list of great films. Among such movies are runaway successes like La La Land and Moonlight. However, some of the other great Academy Award contenders can easily be overlooked. Naturally, one can’t watch every single nominated movie in theaters as it would be a time-consuming and, let’s face it, expensive endeavor.

However, Fences, an adaptation of the play of the same name, is one movie worth the time and money. The script was originally written by the American playwright August Wilson and won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a hard-working African-American man living in 1950s Pittsburgh. His aspirations of becoming a professional baseball player were dashed due to his age and ethnicity. To cope with his unfulfilled dreams, he drinks excessively. Troy is married to his loving wife, Rose (Viola Davis) whom he has a son with. Troy often becomes distant and aggressive for seemingly no justifiable reason. He also has a complicated relationship with his son, Cory (Jovan Adepo), and often belittles him and his goals. Washington portrays this character as an authoritative figure with an unpredictable nature. As well, Davis gives one of the best performances of her career.

The dialogue between Troy and Cory is dry and conveys the disconnect in their relationship and the different outlooks they have. Cory is being scouted by college football recruiters, and has a chance at playing in the NFL. Troy is dismissive of this, as he believes the barriers that prevented him from playing major-league baseball are still rampant, and will hamper his son’s success. The audience becomes increasingly aware of this unsolved dispute throughout the film, as the tension between the characters reaches a culminant point that leaves the audience bewildered.

Even though Troy has the traits of the perfect antagonistic character, Washington’s on-screen charisma makes him compelling, and the viewer can’t help but feel sorry for his circumstances. It is made apparent as the film progresses that he has had a difficult life. Moreover, he is unaware of his abusive behaviour or his drinking problem.

Fences is a character-driven movie with a musical score that makes the action on screen seem more realistic. The first 30 minutes might seem slow for the average moviegoer, however, it builds up to a climatic ending which is more than worth the wait. Fences is a wonderful adaption of the original play and remains loyal to the difficult subject matter of addiction and abuse.

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