Denzel Washington’s Fences has received critical acclaim since it’s release. Nominated for a range of awards, including the Golden Globes Award for Best Actor, the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Satellite award for Best Director, the film’s reputation is certainly well deserved as it is an incredibly thought provoking and emotional film. The film was adapted from a theatre production by August Wilson and the intimate, emotional connections that one would receive from a production are still present in the film. Due to the focus on relationships and the tension they bring, the viewer is able to feel as though they are involved in the situations as they unfold.
Denzel Washington was both the main character and the director of this film, an interesting mix but one that may be the reason for its clarity of expression. Performing both roles, Washington was able to feel the emotions of his character and amplify them when directing the film through the use of camera angles and staging. Although it could be argued that occupying two of the key roles in the film’s production is a difficult task, it may also be part of the genius, as one vision was carried harmoniously through the acting and directing to create a greatly emotive film.
The title of the film is best explained by the quote: “some people build fences to push people out, others build fences to keep people in”. The film is about family life, particularly the father’s effect, both positive and negative, on his relatives as they grow increasingly distant from him. The metaphor of fences within the narrative is thought-provoking, especially in how this metaphor is used to present the barriers in relationships through people’s physical proximity to the literal fence which, as we find out, represents the father’s own life experience in which the fence itself has sheltered him from the outside world.
The characters were very intriguing, with Tony Maxson, played by Denzel Washington, as the troubled father who complicated a happy marriage, alienated his son and sacrificed his happiness for career advancement. His wife, played by Viola Davis, fulfils her role as the supportive female figure and domestic goddess. However, her touching monologue at the film’s resolution expressed the importance of loyalty and commitment in relationships, challenging the image of the stereotypical domestic woman, as her selflessness and loyalty were explained through the sheer strength of her character.
Viola Davis gave a commendable performance in the film, picking up the award for the Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Oscars. She seamlessly transformed into a believable character torn between moral obligations and her own instincts. The difficulties of her situation will make anyone reflect on their own morality and whether or not they are as strong as the character that she portrayed.
The themes within the film included betrayal, family life and happiness, simultaneously questioning the idea of unconditional love and whether or not it is a realistic expectation of relationships.
Fences is in cinemas now.