Fences is a play that was later adapted into a movie, written by August Wilson. It is a part of his 10 play series, “The Pittsburgh Cycle.” This series focuses on African American life and struggles throughout the 1900s. It is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and centers around one family. A majority of the movie takes place in their backyard, where themes such as racism, sacrifice, manhood, and betrayal are discussed.
First and foremost, Viola Davis gives an amazing performance as Rose. Watching her perform with such great emotion made me forget that she was acting. There is one scene, one monologue specifically, that Davis really wrapped in the audience. That scene is the argument between Troy and Rose.
When this movie was first released it was the most talked-about scene of the movie. In the monologue, Rose expresses her wants and needs she has suppressed for the sake of her family, which can be relatable for many. Black people often have to sacrifice and/or neglect themselves in order to get ahead or for their family, more so Black women, which is why this scene is so powerful. It brings attention to self-inflicted misery for the sake of others. It is a problem and burden in the Black community that needs to stop.
On top of emotion, Davis’s body language and facial expressions further sold the character. She put herself into this role with a full commitment just like every role she does. Another film with Viola Davis that I recommend is Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Davis gives yet another great performance and the movie is also part of August Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle.” It is available to watch on Netflix.
Have you ever watched a performance so good it made you not like the actor? Denzel Washington did this for his role as Troy. Just like Davis, he sold his performance. Many were intrigued by the father and son’s relationship. In my opinion, it was the worst relationship out of all of them. It comes to a point where Cory feels the need to ask his father, “How come you ain’t never like me?” Troy lets Cory know that he provides for him because he is his father and that is his responsibility, not because he likes him.
This captivates viewers because once again the Black community can relate. Black children have spoken out on their relationships with their parents and what is lacking. Many feel as though parents focus too much on what they do for their children, instead of being there for them mentally. Being present physically and fulfilling the obligated requirements a parent must do, does not equate to being a good parent.
Another part of the movie that I personally like is how the backyard is the prominent setting. August Wilson tends to have his plays set in one location for a majority of it and that takes talent. Movies use the setting to further tell the story or keep viewers’ attention, and Wilson using one set and still achieving this is amazing. The backyard is not only a backyard; it is a backyard, battlefield, a place for baseball practice, and the place that saw Cory transition from a boy to a man. This one place is all these things and it is achievable through amazing writing.
August Wilson was an amazing writer and I highly encourage everyone to watch his plays and movies. They are true to the Black experience then and now. Also, the problems in the Black community are spoken on throughout his works can still be seen today.