Fences (2016)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Fences</strong> (2016)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) It’s always interesting to see what actors with strong screen personas choose to take on when they direct a movie. Here we have Denzel Washington, of the old-school stoic tough-love tradition, picking the historical drama play Fences as his inspiration for his third outing as director. As we may guess, it’s a strong actor-driven project exploring themes of black experiences in urban America, facing prejudice and individual failings along the way. Washington himself gets to play a hard-headed patriarch—but certainly not a perfect one. Actors such as Viola Davis and Jovan Adepo have good roles here, with family conflict building up as a dramatic force throughout the film. While Fences is not particularly strong on sheer cinematic qualities, the acting is, as one expects, very good—with many of the players, including Washington and Davis, reprising award-winning performances from a 2010 theatrical revival. It’s not a spectacular nor overly memorable film, but it’s solid, thematically successful and a wonderful capture of a play, a time and place and a certain hard-fought working-class attitude. It certainly does much to bolster Washington’s credentials as a surprisingly effective voice for a certain segment of the African-American community, not only by what he chooses to play, but also what to bring to the screens.

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