Fences, based upon the play by August Wilson (who wrote the screenplay before his death in 2005), is Denzel Washington the director’s finest achievement to date. However, Washington does little to hide the film’s stage origins, with a heavy reliance on dialogue and bare minimum of sets—most of the film takes place in the protagonist’s backyard.
But every conversation between angry 53-year-old Troy Maxson (Washington, who should be a lock for a seventh Oscar nomination) and his faithful wife, Rose (Viola Davis, who should be the early frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress), is intense and potentially devastating. As a black man in the early 20th Century, Troy has so much about which to be angry; Washington the director and the actor restrain Troy enough to keep him likable. His penchant for storytelling lightens the early scenes with wonderful character actor Stephen McKinley Henderson.
While it never quite asserts itself as cinematic entertainment more than theatrical experience, Fences features outstanding actors and some of the year’s most powerful onscreen passion.