OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Fences

2016 Academy Award Winner - Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis)

Poster for the movie Fences, adapted from the legendary playDenzel Washington directs and stars in this powerful, respectful, occasionally shouty screen version of August Wilson’s 1983 play about an unhappy working-class African-American family in 1950s Pittsburgh. It’s muscular, solid, sturdy – all those things you expect from classic mid-to-late twentieth-century American drama. Washington and co-star Viola Davis, who starred together in a 2010 Tony-winning Broadway revival of the play, are struggling husband and wife Troy and Rose Maxson, embracing the theatrical DNA of the film.

Most of the action takes places in and around the Maxsons’ home as Troy’s resentments and weaknesses spill out into daily family life. Troy has difficult relationships with his two sons, and his behaviour finally brings his marriage to breaking point.

It’s easy to throw accusations of staginess at adaptations of theatre like this, which make only limited attempts to open up the play. But there’s a hothouse atmosphere to this domestic drama that works well on screen, even if the symbolic power of the fence itself – which Troy is building in his backyard – must have had more resonance in the theatre. Washington is very good, but it’s Davis – hurt, proud, determined – who’s the star of this show.

– Dave Calhoun, Time Out

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