Fences focuses on Troy, a garbage collector mourning the loss of his not quite baseball career and struggling to cope with the hand that life has dealt him. It is not dissimilar to Arthur Miller’s ‘death of a salesman’ a man disillusioned with what life has to offer him, although here there is the added tensions of being a black man in 1950’s America.
Less a play adapted to film more a play filmed. The film is largely set in the kitchen and backyard of Troy and Rose’s house which makes it very stagnant. This is a film of words not action. And if, like me, you are overtired when you watch it makes very difficult viewing.
That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate the film. You cannot deny the performances are superb. The casting is spot on. Denzel Washington takes on the lengthy waxy speeches and their substantial metaphor with serious skill. He transforms into the swaggering, posturing Troy and gradually peels back the layers of this complex character. Viola Davis is equally as good, really coming into her own in the second half with a passionate and emotional performance. The two vibe off each other spectacularly. They both starred in the 2010 Broadway revival of the play and boy do I wish I saw that, I can only imagine it was electric.
It is not just the acting that impresses, the sets are beautiful and take you straight to the heart of their home in 1950s Philadelphia. There is no cinematic magic, no special effects yet the film still delivers powerful and at times moving scenes.
This is a cleverly put together, well thought out and beautifully filmed movie. But if truth be told I’d rather go and see the play.