When the Oscar nominations were released, I’d seen 4/9 of the Best Picture nominees. That sounds pretty bad, but it’s certainly a much better position than I’ve found myself in previous years. In fact, I’m feeling pretty confident that I’ll have seen the full 9 by the time the big night rolls by. The difference this year is that I genuinely want to see all of them, none feel like they’re going to be a chore.
If there was one movie I was slightly unsure of, perhaps ‘on the fence’ about (geddit?) it was Fences. Not because I didn’t think it looked very good, it just seemed like it was going to be more of an experience than an enjoyable watch, the kind of movie you had to really be in the right mood to see. That was definitely the case, but what a fantastic experience it was!
Set in the 1950’s Troy (Denzel Washington) is a family man living with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and youngest son Cory (Jovan Adepo) in Pittsburgh, USA. Troy is bitter about a lot of things in his life, not being able to get credit, being overlooked for promotions at his job as a sanitation worker, and his long lost dreams of being a professional baseball player. His gripes are valid, but they have tainted Troy’s once cheerful outlook on life.
We get glimpses of a happier Troy through conversations with his friend and work colleague Bono (Stephen Henderson), often over a bottle of gin drank in Troy’s back garden, where he’s promised to build a fence with the help of Corey. These moments are far too brief however, as something to make Troy snap is never far away, be it his older son Lyons (Russell Hornsby) asking to borrow $10, or Corey mentioning the upcoming visit of a college football recruiter.
Just…don’t mention the football recruiter. Seriously. I hope that in my lifetime I never made Denzel Washington mad at me. Dude is scary as hell. No, scrap that actually. I hope I never disappoint and upset Viola Davis. Denzel might have made me shrink in my seat, but Viola broke my heart. These are two of the greatest performances I think I’ve ever seen.
This isn’t a movie for everyone. It’s dialogue heavy, and clocks in at over two hours, although I’d argue it doesn’t feel that long. Most of the movie is set in the back garden, which is understandable as it’s based on a play, but it’s not the kind of movie you would sit down and watch on a Saturday night with a takeaway and a few beers. I’m certainly glad I watched it though, and I’ll be gutted if Viola Davis doesn’t win that Oscar!
On my silly ratings scale, I’d give Fences 4/5 fence panels.