The fences of discrimination


Fences is an American drama based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name written by August Wilson.

It tells the story of a family trying to survive among the tensions of racial discrimination, personal infidelity, and major conflict between father and son.

The fences symbolised in the title are the emotional barriers built by an African-American working class father around his wife, his son, and those around him. They also symbolise the efforts to "protect" what is important when family life and welfare come under threat. The film was voted as one of the best ten films of 2016 by the American Film Institute, and Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reprise the award-winning roles they took in the 2010 Broadway revival of Wilson's play.

This is a film about a close-knit family, and the community that surrounds it. Troy Maxson (Washington) is an illiterate sanitation worker living in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, and his restrictive personality prevents him from giving and receiving love and affection spontaneously. He bullies his son, and his wife of 18 years, and nearly always communicates a sense of his own importance.

Troy has dreamed in the past of being a professional baseball player, but failed in his attempt. Bitter about the lost opportunity that he attributes to racial discrimination, he actively prevents his son, Cory (Jovan Adepo), being recognised for his football prowess. His long-suffering wife, Rose (Davis), aware of his faults, and his constant belittling of her, as well as the rift between her husband and her son, has asked Troy to build a fence around their house.

Troy insists that his son should help him construct the fence as punishment for not helping him around the house; Cory has been going (instead) to football practice. Cory's talent is never realised, and the fences being built represent Rose's hope and sacrifice, but also Troy's and Cory's personal failings.

- Peter Sheehan, ACOFB

Fences  Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, and Stephen McKinley Henderson. Directed by Denzel Washington. Rated PG (Mild themes, sexual references and coarse language). 139 min.

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