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Year: 2016 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Denzel Washington 
Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson  
An image from Fences

Fences, Denzel Washington’s third directorial achievement and screen adaptation of August Wilson’s 1985 play of the same title, recounts the story of a black working class family living in Pittsburg in the 1950s.

The title “Fences” is, right from the first few scenes, clearly not referring exclusively to the literal wooden fence Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), patriarch of the family, has been determined to build around his house for decades, yet never made a start on. There are, in fact, multiple metaphorical fences which constrain and haunt the characters of the film: Troy’s “racial fence,” which prevented him from pursuing a career in baseball and still precludes him from being promoted on the job. His son Cory’s (Jovan Adepo) fences, which his own father built around him by projecting his personal failures onto him and consequently obstructing his dreams. Troy’s wife, Rose’s (Viola Davis) fences are also prominent, boundaries she constructed around herself to stay loyal to Troy, renouncing all her personal ambitions.

The everyday struggle of the Maxson family is beautifully narrated through the heart-wrenching and extraordinary performances of Viola Davis and Denzel Washington, who put themselves in their respective character’s shoes for the second time after their appearance in the Broadway stage revival of the play in 2010.

Fences is ultimately a tragically human story of restraint, at times self-imposed, and silent oppression, as well as one of the most successful and wonderfully executed screen adaptations of a stage play Hollywood has ever produced.

Marta Meazza

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Screenings of this film:

2016/2017 Summer Term (digital)