a few days ago, I decided to spoil myself spending my lunch break at the Cinema watching Fences and I was absolutely blown away from either the story, the performance of Denzel Washington, who directed the film too, and Viola Davis, who has just won for this movie a well deserved Oscar as best supporting actress.
I approached the movie without any kind of information about the script or the story and I found myself surprisingly emotionally involved after only 20 minutes.
The story itself is pretty straightforward: Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) lives with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and their son 17 years old Cory (Jovan Adepo) in the suburb in a neighbourhood for “colored people”, and works as a waste collector alongside his best friend, Jim Bono (Stephen Henderson). Troy has got also a younger brother, left mentally ill after World War II, for whom he receives 3000$ a month used to purchase Troy’s family house and a 34 years old son from a previous relationship.
What makes this movie an absolute gem, is the contest. It is 1950, in Pittsburgh and Troy is an ex-baseball player that for the colour of his skin, the war and age limits after that, couldn’t make his dream come true. Even though he carries on with his life trying to do the best he can, he seems stuck in his own world not noticing the historic changes that the USA has been lately involved in. Not even when, tired of seeing only white people driving the garbage truck, complain to the Director of the Company who decides to make him the first African-American driver in Pittsburgh.
When his youngest son Cory gets a chance to play as professional in the baseball college league, Troy starts his journey facing frustrations, bad memories and dark behaviour that ends up in driving his own son away after strong arguments about Cory’s future and few very violent episodes between the 2 of them.
On top of that, Try cheats on Rose after 18 years of marriage, with Alberta who dies giving birth to Troy’s baby girl few months. Troy reveals the affair to Rose asking her help to raise his daughter, but right after, he starts giving signs of instability facing his unhappiness with himself and his failures. He will die from a heart attack 6 years later.
Fences and Layers
The fence Troy is trying to build up in his garden, seems to be more a symbol to distance himself from what he wanted to became, his dreams, to what he couldn’t achieve, the white world and the America he knows, trying to force himself to stay on the right path and answer to all his family responsibilities but reality is, that all his anger and his frustration, at one point, just take over destroying everything, creating very deep emotional layers hard to face.
- He doesn’t want his son Cory to feel the same defeated feelings in the “white baseball world” and so he ruins his chance to go to college playing ball.
- He replicates his abusive father behaviour, that forced him to leave his family home at 14, with Cory, who decides to leave and enrol in the Marine at the age of 18, not to see his father again.
- Troy ends up having 3 kids from 3 different women in 3 very specific moments in his life, and every time, for a reason or for another one, his unable to be an example that his kids can follow: he hasn’t been evolved in the life of his first son having a very superficial relationship with him when he is already in his 30es, he pushes Cory away not giving him any chance to follow the new America social changes and become a baseball player and he dies of heart attack when the little girl is only 5.
- He hurts his loving and caring wife Rose almost destroying their marriage, having an affair with Alberta, a woman met in a bar.
- He uses his brother’s pension to buy a house for his own family.
- He signs the paper to intern his ill brother in a Mental Institution only to deny it to himself and his wife right after, saying that he has signed something but he couldn’t understand what.
- He obtains the promotion to become a driver, lying about his driving licence and ability to read.
It seems like he has tried for all his life to wear the mask of the perfect husband and father, only to find himself completely lost once this mask has fallen off.
“Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.” (Bono, Troy’s best friend).
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