Fences, I feel, is an important movie because it tells a very important story; a black story. It is not a slave movie, nor is it a movie that demonises black people whilst fetishising us at the same time. It is simply an honest black story that puts into context the pathological psychological state of the black man and the black womxn and how this affects not only their relationship with one another but also with the people around them.
The main male character, Troy Maxson, is played by Denzel Washington. Troy is, for all intents and purposes, a good man. He is, however, plagued with memories of a troubled childhood with an abusive father whom he comes to liken to the devil. This, coupled with the hyper masculinity and saviour complex that is deeply entrenched in many black men makes it incredibly difficult for one to empathise with this character.
His wife, Rose Maxson, played by Viola Davis is portrayed as the understanding, patient, loyal, tolerant, strong black womxn who gives far more of herself than she should and receives very little in return. This is a character that resonated with me so deeply because she is symbolic of the black womxn that I, along with many other young black womxn, was raised by. She is a character that one finds impossible not to love but one may equally feel resentment towards her for perhaps tolerating too much and not fighting enough both for herself and for her son, Cory, played by Jovan Adepo.
Mental illness is also one of the major themes in this film as Gabriel, the brother of Troy, played by Mykelti Williamson suffers from PTSD and has a metal plate in his head due to an injury sustained during WWII. I found Gabriel’s character to be an incredibly important one because of the stigmatisation of mental illness, especially in the black community. Much of the black community still subscribes to the idea that mental illness is a demon who is never to be named or acknowledged and if one ever did name him, it would be by a name far less suspicious attributed to a culprit far better understood. He’s also a character that makes one question their own perception of reality because throughout the movie, Gabriel appears to suffer from delusions of a Spiritual nature but towards the end of the movie, one wonders if the delusions might not in fact be real.
There are many more interesting characters in this movie.
The story is actually a very complex one with intertwining themes and a poetic dialogue filled with metaphors and analogies which I thoroughly enjoyed. It really is a film for black people by black people and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys thought provoking and emotion invoking films that speak to the humxn condition.
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