‘I gotta eat but I gotta live’
Fences is directed by Denzel Washington and stars the man himself and Viola Davis. It follows the life of Troy and his wife Rose. Troy serves as our focal point throughout, and it is through him that we are introduced to the films many themes. It is thematically layered in a way that never becomes too cumbersome, thanks to its impressive pacing and direction. In its 140 minute runtime, it effortlessly touches on themes such as responsibility, accountability, the loss of the self and the issues involving fatherhood. The film is set during 1950s America which gives an interesting backdrop to Troy’s life. At its core, this is a story about people and is a surprisingly existential examination of one’s place within an ever moving and changing world.
This is a dialogue heavy film which means that the progression relies almost completely on the strength of the actors. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both show exemplary skill in their portrayal of their characters. They both excel in showing the quiet energy of the two characters as well as the explosive clashes that make up the main narrative body. Denzel is at any point humorous and light but also commanding and intense. Even in the lighter scenes we get a real sense that Troy is always on the edge of calling rank and giving orders. In a very parallel way, Viola Davis’ character always comes across as sweet and approachable but also emanates a concrete strength.
The skilful writing goes hand in hand with the skill of all actors in the film. The fast paced, authentic dialogue gives the film a real base to stand on and often makes you forget that you are watching a film at all. The dialogue feels real and personal, which lends much more of an emotional punch to the more upsetting scenes within the film. The characters are so layered and well developed that you are guaranteed to be unravelling them in your mind for the next few days.
Rather like the dialogue, the cinematography is also very subtle and personal. The scenes are often just simple long shots that perfectly frame the dialogue. However, the film also masterfully uses larger shots of the sky or cityscape to give the scenes a place in the larger setting. It is very cleverly done as a way of showing the audience how the world is so huge compared to our lives and yet it becomes easy to forget everything beyond our own personal fences.
Scenes beautifully unfold, the acting is engrossing and emotional and the story will give your brain something to think about for the next few days. This is a beautiful, cerebral film that has stellar acting, writing and direction and is a must see for any movie goer.
Fences is currently showing at FACT and you can view screening times and buy tickets by clicking here.