Recently, I watched the film Fences by August Wilson based on his Pulitzer prize-winning play. The film features the two most gifted and talented actors of their generation – Denzel Washington and Viola Davis amongst other cast of stellar actors.
The film is set in 1950’s Pittsburgh and it’s about Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo). Troy has a mentally impaired younger brother Gabriel Maxson (Mykelti Williamson) and an estranged son Lyons Maxson (Russell Hornsby) from a previous relationship.
Troy works as a garbage collector alongside his best friend Jim Bono (Stephen Henderson) whom he met in prison.
Troy’s younger brother is mentally impaired because of a head injury he sustained while serving in World War 2. Troy used the money Gabriel was paid from the army and bought the house they live in. Troy bought the house so that Gabriel could live with them but Gabriel moved out and is always in the neighborhood causing trouble because of his strange behavior.
Troy left his abusive father when he was young and became a robber. He ended up serving time for fifteen years because he stabbed a man to death he was trying to rob.
In prison, Troy learnt how to play baseball. However, his desire to play professional baseball was thwarted and blamed it on the racism that was very prevalent during his time. He claims that he wasn’t picked to play professional baseball because he was black. Bono his loyal friend thought he was way ahead of his time – came too early. Rose, on the other hand thought the reason why Troy did not cut it was he was too old. He was past the age of playing professional baseball.
His son Cory is a gifted young man who wants to play college football. But Troy insists that he wouldn’t allow him to play any sports because he fears that his son would encounter the same racism that kept him out of the big leagues. He wants his son to learn a trade and look for a job. In the film, you can sense some jealousy because Troy is scared that his son might do better than him.
Rose however is keen that their son embraces sport and makes something out of it. Eventually, Troy scuppers his move to see a recruiter who was due to visit and offer him a place in the college football team. Rose sees in her son that everything he does is to get approval from his father. Yet, his father keeps on pushing him away because of his own insecurities.
The film is very thought-provoking, heart wrenching, tear jerking and inspiring. As you watch the film, your own life might flash before your very eyes. You’d see your life through the various themes that run throughout the film. I cried both times I watched it.