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Antwone Fisher

Antwone Fisher is at war... with himself. 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Denzel Washington's directorial debut starts with young Navy man Antwone Fisher (Luke) awaking from a strange dream. The hectic activity of the sailors washing and joking is in sharp contrast to his dream of being a child in the countryside surrounded by his family. One of the men makes a remark to Antwone and they get into a fight. As punishment Antwone is restricted to his ship and ordered to see a Navy psychiatrist.

At first Antwone refuses to cooperate with Dr Davenport the psychiatrist (Washington), but he does gradually open-up to him. Through the guidance of the psychiatrist the film movingly shows Antwone recalling the murder of his father, his abandonment by his mother, and the abusive treatment at his foster home. The worrying side-effect of this is that Antwone starts to regard the Davenport and his wife as surrogate parents. Davenport confronts him about this and tells him that the only way he can really resolve all his pent-up fear and hatred is to find his mother.

Through the help of his girlfriend he does eventually find himself surrounded by his family in a fashion similar to the opening dream.  This 'dream' framework is odd considering this film is based on a true story. However, the flashbacks recounted by Antwone interweave neatly with the present-day events and you quickly want to know more about his past. You also want him to sort himself out but there is always the sense that he will do something that will put his future in jeopardy. Besides finding Antwone's roots, the film shows him coping with his girlfriend, and in-turn his therapy also helps Davenport come to terms with his own strained marital relationship.

For a film about psychiatric and emotional matters there is, thankfully, no psychobabble.  The only time any theory is put forward is when Antwone reads a book, given to him by Davenport, that says that black people can often be abusive to each other because they are copying the master-slave relationship of the old plantation days. Although this helps explain why Antwone's foster mother tortured him and called him 'nigger' he does not forgive her.

For a film shot mainly indoors with lots of dialogue it never gets stagey or ponderous.  Wahington as actor and director believes in this story and uses all his skills to make us feel every bump in Antwone's journey of selfdiscovery.  If you missed this one at the cinema, it's the perfect opportunity to catch up on one of the most moving stories of the year.

Percival Tucker

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Autumn Term (35mm)