Fences is the story about an African-American father struggling with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Fences is an outstanding film driven by great performances from Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. This film took me on a rollercoaster of emotions that had me in a heap of tears by its finish.” KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror Juanita Seon Leary adds, “Adapted from the stage play by August Wilson (who also writes the screenplay), it lives up to its award- winning status.” See their full reviews below.
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11
Fences is an outstanding film driven by great performances from Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. This film took me on a rollercoaster of emotions that had me in a heap of tears by its finish.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson, Fences is set in Pittsburgh in the 1950s and follows Troy (Denzel Washington) and his wife Rose (Viola Davis). Troy works on a garbage truck and has failed to accomplish his dreams of becoming a baseball player. He thinks life was stacked up against him and takes it out on his family. His son Corey (Jovan Adepo) dreams of playing football, but Troy is holding him back. A secret that Troy is keeping threatens to ruin his relationship with his family. As the secret and its aftermath are slowly revealed, Fences takes you on an enthralling and emotional family journey.
Denzel Washington is excellent as Troy Maxson, a man reminiscing about his failed baseball career and the cruel injustice he thinks he’s experienced in his life. Washington’s performance manages to make this character likable, but paints his character’s inner demons very well, too. Viola Davis’s performance is great. She adds so much aching, raw emotion to her performance. No other actors could have played these roles this well. They starred in these roles on Broadway in 2010 in a revival of this play and I am convinced this helped build the bond they show as husband and wife in the film.
My favorite character is Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), Troy’s brother and a veteran with a challenging injury. He’s a very bright and almost magical character who lights up the screen every time he’s on it. He helps balance the tense dramatic scenes in this film.
Denzel Washington also directs Fences. The way he shoots this film really resonates with me as an audience member. He brings the viewer in close to the characters during tense moments and draws you into the emotional core of the scene. One thing that I don’t like about how the film is constructed is that sometimes the transitions between scenes are sudden and occasionally confusing. It makes the pacing somewhat inconsistent. But overall, this film is extremely powerful and I definitely recommend bringing tissues.
I recommend this film for ages 12 to 18 because some adult themes could be difficult for children to process as well as the racially charged and vulgar language. I give Fences 5 out of 5 stars for its superb acting, captivating characters and drama. This film is in theaters now so be sure to check it out.
By Juanita Seon Leary, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror
I saw Fences as a play with James Earl Jones years ago and was very anxious and looking forward to seeing the filmed version. Adapted from the stage play by August Wilson (who also writes the screenplay), it lives up to its award- winning status. I am a fan of both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis who star in this film.
Throughout the film, we see life through the eyes of Troy (Denzel Washington) an African American man struggling with issues of race and economics and all the events of his life. He lives with his family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1950s.
Fences opens with Troy and Bono (Steven Henderson) riding on the garbage truck. As they work, they talk about the inequality of their jobs. Troy questions why “a black man cannot drive the truck”? He asks the question to his supervisor who is a white man and is facing possible firing. so it is thought. Troy and Bono arrive at Troy’s house and we begin to learn about a fence. It is Friday and payday. We see Troy and Bono sharing a bottle of liquor. Troy tells stories and his wife Rose (Viola Davis) sits on porch and interacts to keep Troy honest. We learn about Troy’s past, his excellent skills in baseball, time he served in jail and how he met Rose.
The film has excellent scenes that let us feel and see the streets of Pittsburgh. The main center of action is the backyard. There is a baseball on a string and Troy’s baseball bat. Rose asks Troy to build her a fence. At one point, Bono speaks to Troy about fences. “Fences are built to keep something or someone out or to keep something or someone in.” He lets Troy know that Rose wants to keep him and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) inside. In Fences, we see the relationship and interaction of a father with his sons. His older son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby) comes by on paydays to ask for a loan and his younger son Cory wants to play football to attend college.
Fences is excellent and has many lessons and messages. Because of the language and suggestive references, I recommend it for ages 14 to 18 and believe that many adults will enjoy it also. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. It opened on December 25, 2016 so be sure to check it out.
Credit: KIDS FIRST!