By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas, US)
Fences: A Masterful Dissection of Conflicting Ideologies
Fences is the last big drama film of 2016, and it ends the year on a bang. This is a film that is directed by Denzel Washington and stars Denzel Washington. This film tells the story of Troy Maxson, a man who makes his living as a sanitation worker in the 1950’s of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Troy is an elderly man who is still bitter about his dreams of being a professional baseball player that we’re taken away due to his age. But he continues to blame it upon the race discrimination that is involved in society including sports. He takes his trouble and bitterness out on his family, specifically his teenage son Cory. This is a film that relies upon its performances and encompasses these performances with solid direction. Including a sense of intimacy and realism to suck you into this films narrative that makes you feel so relatable to these characters and the many conflicts they face.
This is a film that includes a bunch of dialogue. There are no dramatic action sequences. There are no large CGI characters. This film goes against the grain of Hollywood and creates a film that relies on its characters to drive its story. These characters are so complex and so realistic you get so lost in their day to day lives. When conflicts arise you feel as if they are happening to you, or to a family member that you are close too. These performances are incredibly done. Denzel Washington is remarkable and so complex as a character. He makes you question whether his actions are right or wrong. Question whether what he says is the truth or a lie. You even begin to question your morality in comparison to his, in whether you would commit the same actions he does or if you would say the things he says.
Viola Davis is also really good in the film. Encompassing this character who truly is a stay at home wife. Who does everything she can to be the best wife and mother she can be, but also serves as an antagonist to Denzel’s character by being unafraid to tell him her honest opinion. Stephen Henderson is also really good. He’s almost the moral compass of the film. Being the character that has known Denzel’s character the longest and doesn’t mind trying to help him do the right thing. The film also tackles two very different ideologies of life at faces them off against each other. With a man who values responsibility and respect over love and happiness versus his son and wife who value happiness and doing what’s right that brings them personal fulfillment over payment. The direction is also very beautifully done.
Denzel has directed in the past with films like The Great Debaters and Antwone Fisher. Both are pretty good films and he shows off his talents as a director in this film as well. He does a great job in using these long encompassing shots that give you this sense of relaxation almost. You feel as if you are part of the family and you are character having a conversation with your own family in your backyard. This script is so relatable and driven by dialogue. And, Denzel focuses on that by purposefully never relying on or even using music to create emotion. Instead he uses dialogue and these amazing performances to create emotion. The production design is also so amazing. You really lose yourself in this setting and feel so entrapped by it. You really feel as if you are in the 1950’s of Pittsburgh.
The only flaw I have with this film is there two specific scenes that conflict with this films tone and filmmaking techniques. These scenes are incredibly cheesy and imaginative that go against the films thematic ideas of realism, conflict, pride, fear, and intimacy. The scenes are also filmed so differently that it just throws you off and goes against the films tone. These flaws really go against the film, but it doesn’t completely take away from the films strong thematic ideals.
Fences ends 2016 on a bang, by creating a film that discusses these comparative ideologies. But, it also makes you feel so intimate with this film’s characters, script, and setting, and there are not too many films that do that today. This is a film with great direction, masterful performances, and a thorough script. Fences was an emotional and an intimate drama that I’m going to give it an A! What did you think of Fences? What is your favorite film of 2016? What should Denzel do next? Let me know down in the comments below and as always have a blessed day.