“Fences” is an American story: Man works hard, loves his wife, wants the best for his son. And while the story could easily end there, like real life, the deeper you dig, the more levels are exposed.

In “Fences” Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxon, a working man. He’s loud and braggadocious, and rough around the edges, but he’s hardworking and fiercely protective of his family. The stresses of life have left Troy determined to get his due.Washington accurately captures Troy’s inner frustrations as someone whose professional sports dreams were cut short, and who now, because of fear, and determination to protect his son Cory, is slowly squashing his son’s professional football dreams. Washington becomes Troy.

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures.
Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures.

Troy’s wife Rose, played by Viola Davis, is loving and loyal, though she has no problem playing the peacemaker between Troy and his oldest son Lyons (Russell Hornsby), and calling him to task for being too hard on their son Cory (Jovan Adepo). Rose seems pretty content with her life, until Troy drops devastating, life-changing news right into her lap. THIS IS THE SCENE THEY SHOW IN THE PREVIEWS. This is the scene for which Davis has been receiving Oscar buzz. In this scene, we see a change in Rose, and she changes because she has to. You see her character grow, and though she remains the dutiful wife, the love is gone.

Cory is Troy and Rose’s son. Effectively, he is Rose’s world, but a thorn in Troy’s side. His youth and determination, combined with the personality traits he shares with Troy prevent him from showing his father the reverence and respect he feels he deserves. He wants to play college football. In fact, his heart is set on it. He’s proactive enough to take a leave of absence from his job so he can devote more time to football, but his father is having none of it. This is really where the tension between father and son is shown, but interestingly enough, the problem isn’t really football. Neither Troy nor Cory feels like he is receiving his “due.” Cory wants his father to “like” him and support his dreams. Troy wants his son to be grateful for the sacrifices he’s made for him. Neither man can see past his own feelings to see their similarities. As time passes, they grow further apart, eventually coming to blows because they both feel disrespected.

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Stephen McKinley Henderson plays Jim Bono in Fences from Paramount Pictures.
Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Stephen McKinley Henderson plays Jim Bono in Fences from Paramount Pictures.

“Fences” is a classic story of love and loss, but these emotions aren’t without sacrifice. Washington’s portrayal of Troy shows a conflicted man. He feels like he’s been wronged for most of his life. He feels like the world owes him happiness, which leads him to hurt the person who loves him unconditionally – his wife, Rose. Even after delivering life-changing news, Troy is unapologetically selfish. Interestingly enough, I think some of Troy’s views are indicative of that era.   I have heard so many stories of fathers providing financial support for their families, but neglecting the same emotional support. Troy worked hard to provide for his family’s physical needs, but because his foundation from childhood was lacking, he was unable to provide what he’d never had.   He’s unable to move past his selfishness to be exactly what his family needs him to be on an emotional level.

“Fences” is phenomenal. Do yourself a favor and go see it. The privilege of seeing Washington and Davis on screen together is frankly enough to warrant the $16 ticket price tag, but the story and acting are also fantastic. You won’t be disappointed.