Fences film review: Incredible acting overcomes stagey direction in this Denzel Washington movie
Stepping into the director’s chair for the first time in a decade, Denzel Washington also takes the lead in this adaptation of August Wilson’s play. Troy (Washington) is a hard working, hard drinking garbage man in 1950s Pittsburgh. Resentful of his lot in life, he pushes away his sons, leaving his wife (Viola Davis) to hold together a family ever on the brink of implosion.
The word stagey has been used to describe this film, and it’s a fair assessment. Much of Washington’s direction involves fixing the camera in position and letting the actors do the work, the result feeling like a filmed play rather than a piece of cinema.
However, with this cast, Fences could have been filmed in a shoebox and still be emotionally compelling. The two leads are a whirlwind of tightly-wound emotions; Washington grandstands, showing every facet of a man consumed by the shadow of his past, but unable to keep himself from repeating history. While it’s tough to sympathise with what is essentially domestic abuse, the strength of the performance delivers a more rounded character than you might expect. Last seen taking the money in Suicide Squad, Davis is just as powerful as his long-suffering wife, convinced her man is good despite all the evidence to the contrary. While her final speech may not ring true to modern audiences, there’s no doubting her passion.
Watching this tale of family woe is never comfortable, but those looking for Oscar-worthy performances will find a master class waiting for them.