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Movie Review: Fences – Uncomfortable but Powerful

Whenever I think about Denzel Washington I conjure up a bunch of cheap action movies most of the time, but after watching Fences, a film he directed and acted in, I don’t think I’ll ever think of him the same way again.

The film is based on the pulitzer prize winning play of the same name. Something felt off about the film at first, and it wasn’t until fifteen to twenty minutes in that I realised I wasn’t watching a movie, I was watching a stage show filmed on location.

Denzel plays a larger than life character, which instantly reminds me of the last movie I watched where the lead was also the director and got too greedy about it. However in this instance this overblown personality is its strength.

The film is based in the 1950’s, about Troy Maxson, a black guy with a very particular outlook on life. He hardlines on things like responsibility and who owes what to whom. His ideas about himself however don’t always line up with the reality of his situation, much like in real life. People have an amazing ability to have a certain amount of duality in their hypercritical lives.

For all the pseudo-philosophizing that was done in Live By Night, it has nothing on the simply shot conversations of a small family in Fences.

Washington does a good job, and is solidly backed up by Viola Davis and Stephen Henderson. Viola at one point delivers a line that gave me chills, and that was the one moment I needed to sell me on the film.

For some people, who are more used to a little more spectacle in their films, be warned. As I said earlier, this film feels like a stage show, with long conversations and very few locations, with most of the movie taking place in the backyard of Troy’s home.

Matt, our resident professional with an opinion didn’t have many funny quips about this film, due to its sobering effect.

“It somehow makes you think about all the times where you’ve made bad choices, and drags any residual guilt to the surface.”

“Uncomfortable but powerful. I can’t think of anything funny to say about it.”

“… The gravestone with nothing but the word ‘MOTHER’ on it was super hilarious.”

Fences hits NZ cinemas on the 9th of February 2017. Fans of dramatic/depressing stage shows should put this on their list of things to see.