(Review: Contains Spoilers)
By: Shanita Hicks
Overall Rating: 5/5
Storytelling & Storyline
Fences, which released nationwide on Christmas day follows the all too common and phenomenally relatable story of an man and his family processing and coping with life’s most unforeseen and dream deferring lessons.
Based on the play written by the late August Wilson, Fences surrounds the life of Troy Maxson whose brilliantly portrayed by Denzel Washington, a middle-aged man who supports his family by the adopted trade of working for city sanitation in Pittsburg during the mid 1950s. Along his life’s journey, Troy like everyone is faced with decisions and actions that ultimately shaped the future and present state of mind that he is currently placed in. After running away from home at the young and impressionable age of 14, he lands in jail for foolish antics for several years of his life and once he given an outlet to showcase and hone a skill playing baseball, he finds that just like many of the other unknown opportunities of life, this too has passed him by.
The Negro league ultimately rejects him due to his old age of 40 regardless of his talent, which in turn made him bitter and resentful. Instead of a dream deferred it was a dream diminished and along his path, he consciously and subconsciously made the decision to destroy the happiness of everyone around him. No one was safe from his internal wrathful conflict. Which brings the overall idea of Fences to a crucial plot point. The idea and question of “What about my life” is openly and honestly explored over the course of every character that directly and indirectly has interaction with Troy.
Because of his resentment towards failing in his own eyes, he decided to take it out on others most predominately his own family. Despite his youngest son, Cory (Jovan Adepo) showcasing great promise and skill for sports particularly football, Troy finds himself forcing his son away from his dreams because of own personal insecurities towards failed hopes.
Lyons (Russell Hornsby) is his 34-year-old son who finds himself within the same trappings as his youngest son in his father’s eyes. He tried with later failed results to escape the life that his father led by running around in the streets and taking what he felt he was due to support his sort of pipe dream career in music. Despite any promising skills he possessed, it is considered useless because he never learned the value of true hard work and persistence due to his strained relationship with his father.
But besides the personal distress that Troy continued to remained trapped in, the two people in my opinion that suffered the most from his discontentment were his wife Rose Maxson, whom is expertly brought the life by actress Viola Davis and his mentally disabled war veteran brother Gabriel. As if plucked from the story Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by famed writer and historian Zora Neale Hurston, Rose Maxson represented the ideology of women truly being considered the mules of the of the world.
Despite the pain and dissatisfaction of her own dreams never coming to fruition while being married to Troy, she continued to lift him up regardless of if he pleased her emotionally or physically. This hard and complex level of selflessness in the end cost her both her voice and her value in both of their eyes as she found herself lost within his shadow of grief and forced to bare the pain of his infidelity and devaluing actions of creating an outside child.
And tucked within that all consuming shadow, laid his brother Gabriel who was brilliantly cast and developed by actor Mytelti Williamson. Having sustained life-altering injuries during WWII, Gabriel is forced to live under the confines of his brother’s choices since he could no longer function and manage on his own accord.
As the story of Troy Maxson’s life unfolds, the symbolic elements within Fences manifests on various levels. The concept takes on both physical entrapment and emotional entrapment of not wanting to let go of life’s hurts and also not wanting to let go of those that can and cannot thrive if placed in a better situation than you. Just as a physical fence is designed to keep unwanted people and things out it also designed to keep said properties in. For Rose, the fence became her heart’s barrier. She was emotionally raw and wanted so bad to keep everything that was Troy Maxson at home with her both good and bad.
For his children, the fence became a representation of what was holding them back from success and for Troy the fence represented all of the weight being incased from his failures, small successes and his infidelity. The beginning of the end for Troy was surrounded by the birth of his outside child, Raynell (Saniyaa Sidney). She was a product of an affair the Troy guarded as his moment of feeling great and being able to escape the trappings of his life. When Raynell’s mother passed away during delivery, Troy had to bring back her to the one person he knew could help her.
In the end, Raynell, Gabriel, Lyons, Cory, Rose and Troy finally escaped the fence. His sons went on the manage life’s curve balls and find success. His longtime friend Bono, portrayed by Stephen Henderson learned what not to do and what to do in life based on the choices he saw Troy make. Rose became the mother that she was meant to be with Raynell and Gabriel although considered a shell of his former self thrived in his own regard once he was given the care and treatment he required. At the end, once everyone had returned for Troy’s funeral Gabriel’s characteristics and antics took on a very spiritual aspect in that he finally got the opportunity to “guide and usher” Troy’s spirit into heaven by sounding his faithful trumpet.
Without question, Fences in my opinion is probably the best film of 2016. From the acting to the scenery each part of this film is top notch. Denzel did a fantastic job bringing this project to the silver screen and you would be very silly not to go witness it’s greatness.