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Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.

fencesTo the outside world, the Maxsons live contented lives: Troy (Denzel Washington) has just won the right to become the city’s first non-white driver in the sanitation department; his wife of seventeen years, Rose (Viola Davis), looks after the family home, keeping it spotless and always ready with a good hot meal while looking after the finances; and a teenage son, Cory (Jovan Adepo) who is doing well enough in the school football team that college talent scouts are considering giving him a place.


A couple of decades after his own dreams of joining major league baseball because he was deemed too old by the time African-American players are admitted, Troy is still bitter about the path that “could have been” and takes out his resentment on Cory. He refuses to let Cory play football and insists he spend his “spare” time working to support the family.

Amidst the disagreements, Troy is building a fence for Rose. Troy’s best friend and colleague, Bono (Stephen Henderson) occasionally drops by to help while they chat about the politics of the sanitation department and days gone by. Troy’s adult son from a previous relationship, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), is a musician who occasionally drops by either asking for money or repaying his debts. And then there is Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), Troy’s brother, who is mentally disabled and has recently moved out of Troy’s house who frequently gets into trouble with the law.

As you would expect from a film adaptation of what is essentially a one-room play, Fences is heavy in dialogue, slowly revealing the extent of the emotional damage that has affected Troy throughout his life. As his arguments with Cory unravel, he is forced to confront his own demons, and cause him to seek his own version of a happier life elsewhere. But through it all, Rose stands by her husband, sacrificing so much and yet, in the end, finds her own happiness from her husband’s failures.

Having staged a revival of August Wilson’s play back in 2010, the reunion between Washington and Davis as the Maxsons is a no-brainer. They clearly know each other and their characters very well, leaving nothing behind as they pour their hearts out on the big screen.

Fences is directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson adapted from his own play. It is now showing across Australia.