Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) leads a humble life. Once playing Negro league baseball, he now works as a trash collector to provide for his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and their son, Cory (Jovan Adepo). Lyons (Russell Hornsby), Troy’s son from a previous marriage stops by from time to time, usually just looking to borrow money from his father. Troy’s brother Gabe (Mykelti Williamson), who suffers from psychological problems after an injury he sustained while serving in World War II, used to live with them, but is now renting a room across the street.
Cory’s dream is to play professional football. When he tells his father that he won’t be working full-time anymore due to practice, Troy demands he quit football and get his job back. When Troy finds out that Cory did not get his job back and is still playing football, he goes to Cory’s coach and tells him Cory will no longer be playing. This drives a wedge into their relationship.
Troy receives a promotion at work to become the first African-American to drive a garbage truck rather than just riding on the back of the truck, emptying the cans. Shortly after his promotion, Troy is forced to deliver some bad news to Rose that will most likely destroy his family.
Fences is based on a play by the same name written by August Wilson. Directed by Denzel Washington, it tells the story of an African-American family trying to get by in 1950s Pittsburgh.
The performances are of the caliber you would expect from Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. There are times when Washington’s acting seems a little exaggerated, which makes the film feel more like a play. Given the original format, this is acceptable. Mykelti Williamson’s Gabe feels authentic as a wounded veteran. At no point does it feel overdone or verging on a caricature. The rest of the cast fills in nicely, as well.
The majority of the film is spent in Troy’s back yard where he is supposed to be building a fence around their property. Cory is supposed to be helping him as punishment for not doing his chores. Most of the time Troy is supposed to be working, he spends lamenting his life. From his younger life where he did some less than savory things to get money, to his failed attempt at a baseball career, to being held back at work, the latter two seemingly because of the color of his skin. While entertaining at some times and poignant observations about race relations in the 1950s at others, the story overall feels a bit lacking. With a run time of 2 hours 18 minutes, I struggled to stay interested in the story.
Fences, though not a bad film, feels a little too long. It has some defining moments, but has a tendency to wander all over the place. I would recommend waiting for the rental.