‘Fences’ was the last of this years Academy Awards Best Picture nominees I needed to see to complete the list. Also picking up nominations for Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay there was certainly a lot of love for the film. The picture was Denzel Washington’s third time directing and is based on August Wilson’s award winning play. Would the transition from stage to screen be successful one though?
As the film begins the onslaught of dialogue coupled with lengthy scenes is rather exhaustive. However, once you accept that this is how the film will play out it becomes less of an issue. The almost singular setting of this couple’s home for the film makes it quite apparent that this came from the theatre. Although with this limited setting, long scenes and relentless dialogue I could understand the film becoming a struggle for some audience members. As well as this the running time is well over two hours. For a film made up almost entirely of conversations this will be a stretch for some. Others, like myself, will be fascinated by the content of these conversations. The stories within the stories, the conflicts and the more everyday chatter combine well to make a compelling drama.
Much credit is of course due to the impressive ensemble cast. Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby & Mykeiti Williamson all fulfill supporting roles. They all have their part to play in the overall narrative and each has a moment to shine, with Adepo particularly standing out. The film really does belong to Denzel Washington & Viola Davis, who should surely be nominated in the Leading Actress category rather than Supporting. Both of these performers are just wonderful to watch and ‘Fences’ will always be remembered as a high point in both of their careers. The screenplay is written very well and in addition to the fantastic performances resulted in an incredibly powerful drama. It was a treat to have such a deep character study of several characters as we get to know the three main members of the family so well. The strength of the screenplay and performances only continues to be proved as in one moment you feel vicious hatred towards a character and the next you want to offer them your sympathy.
‘Fences’ isn’t an omniplex movie and won’t find fans in mainstream cinema audiences. Instead those that appreciate wonderful performances and rich character study should lap this up. Even those fans might struggle with the length of the film as a whole though. I doubt that anyone’s mind wouldn’t wander somewhat throughout the mammoth running time. Nonetheless a powerful piece of drama which adequately gripped me. And The Oscar goes to…Viola Daivs, it has to.
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite Viola Davis performance?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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