Stars: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney.
Director: Denzel Washington
Screenplay: August Wilson
There are key differences between a play and a film. A play is about telling through staging and dialogue, film is about framing and emotion; in order to take a play and turn it into a film is by using the filmic language of emotion and framing and this film is on the fence between the two (please applaud my pun).
It took me a while to get into the swing of Fences (2016) and this is down to the speed of the dialogue, the play like structure, and even the plot set up. Instead of using faces, relationships, or symbolism it relies on what a play relies upon; talking. Conversation is used forcefully in the first 30 minutes to set up everyones relationships, but a film does not need to spend all that time to express that—a play does. This is a film adaptation of the play, not the play filmed on a broadway stage then projected onto a screen. There is very little effort made to make this a filmic experience, at least in the first 30 minutes.
As the film goes along it starts to feel a little looser in its delivery, the relationships become a little more natural and the reliant on facial expressions rather than bellow laughter is used nicely. Denzel and Viola really bring to life their characters and you can feel that they know them through and through. They have breathed these characters that it is hard to see where the character and actor meet. The story is like an onion, it has layers that are peeled only when it is relevant for us to see them. By the mid way section it has finally won me over and I can almost, almost forgive the first act.
If this film was allowed to be a film and not a staged play then I would be with the academy and be praising this work. The sets, actors, and story are brilliant but sadly I wanted to watch a complete film not half a decent one with a play slapped on at the beginning.