Fences: A Movie


In August Wilson’s Fences, Troy is slowly building a fence for their backyard at his wife’s request. Troy feels that she wants a fence to protect them from the outside forces but his friend Bono thinks that Rose (Viola Davis) wants a fence to keep her precious things on the inside.

This powerful movie was directed by Denzel Washington, who also plays Troy, the patriarch.  He is bitter and is somewhat broken by life’s circumstances.  He was a baseball player for the Negro League but never made it to the big leagues.  Instead, he works for the city as a trash collector.  He and his good friend Bono enjoy daily laughter on the job as they go through their lives as family men.

Troy advocates for himself and eventually becomes the first black driver for the sanitation department but as he climbs up the ladder, his life unravels on many other fronts.  He is at war with his youngest son, Cory because he does not support his dream of becoming an athlete.

He privately fears that his son will be injured and Troy wants him to use his mind or find a skill that he can fall back on in case of injury.  However, he does not communicate his concerns very well.  Instead, Cory thinks that his father is envious and after a physical altercation, he leaves home and joins the Marines.

In the meantime, Troy has fathered an outside child and as fate would have it, the woman dies in childbirth.  Rose finally agrees to be a mother to the little girl, but she closes the door on their love and intimacy.

Bono, his friend of many years had tried to warn him about the extramarital affair, but it fell on deaf ears.  They drift apart.  The downward spiral continues when Troy accidentally signs his brother into an institution because he cannot read and does not know what he is signing.  His older outside son, Lyons, also gets into trouble; but if Troy had gone to listen to him play as a musician, he may have stayed on track.

At the end, Cory returns home from the Marines to see Lyons and Bono waiting to attend Troy’s funeral.  Rose scolds the daughter that she agreed to raise and tells her to get dressed for her father’s funeral.

Cory and his little sister meet for the first time and they spend time on the back steps facing the finished fence.  They sing one of Troy’s favorite songs together and it is touching.

But Gabe, who carries around a trumpet, does something in the final scene that brings on the tears.  See how Gabe’s final actions leave the family members staring in disbelief. This Pulitzer and Tony award-winning play is filled with superb acting!

Ernest Hemingway’s quote fits this play perfectly.  He wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward, some are strong in the broken places.”

Lynn M. Dixon                                                      January 28, 2017

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