Monday, 9 January 2017


The legacy of a people is told through the voice of that people, viewed through the lens of lifetimes of accumulating pain. August Wilson's portrait of black America is a definitive one in essence, in character, in its realization here in the hands of some of the country's most estimable black artists. A stage play initially, the coarse, vivid realism of Fences' style is one of theatrical immediacy, rather than gritty cinematic naturalism. Wilson and Denzel Washington foreground those features that reside normally in the background of the people they portray - not the characters, the people. History floods through Fences in its prose, in its participants, in its plot, in its cumbersome metaphors and its brilliantly burdensome messages. The film is a stark, unambiguous address of the formation and the development of a particular racial identity, and a cruel critique of its meanest manifestations. The manner in which neither writer nor director / lead actor insist upon teasing out the true reason behind all this anger and all this pain is Fences' most persuasive exhibit of its surprising subtlety - a necessary component in such a dense study. So it's cruel, but not unkind, a tough love reflection, and a simple celebration of this people and their legacy in the plain fact that, as is all too rare in the media, we're not merely seeing them here but understanding them too. Washington is an uncommonly astute director of actors, but he struggles to adopt a more fitting technique for handling anything more abstract than their emotional expressions. Alas, the film needs little else, entrusted as it is to this exceptionally fine cast, led by the magnificent Washington and Viola Davis. Theirs is a legacy, alongside Wilson's, which will shape that of their people for many lifetimes to come.