Film Review: There’d be No ‘Fences’ Without Rose

The other day, I had the pleasure of viewing the film adaptation of August Wilson’s play, Fences, directed by award-winning actor, Denzel Washington. As a former actor and theatre student, I was familiar with the play so I was looking forward to seeing how it would translate to film. I have to say, I was not at all disappointed by the results.

The film, Fences, stayed true to its theatric beginnings by keeping settings limited. Most scenes took place in the backyard of the Maxson’s family home, by Troy Maxson’s (Denzel Washington) workplace, the street and inside the house.

Another aspect of Fences that is also true to its play beginnings, is that dialogue between characters carried the story along. This would possibly be considered a bit problematic for film because in most modern-day films, scenes are relatively brief, long, static shots are considered awkward, and actions are usually what keeps the film moving and the audience invested. This didn’t pose to be a problem in Fences, in my opinion.

From funny, nostalgic anecdotes, usually told by Troy Maxson, to heavy, emotionally charged monologues, one notably delivered by Viola Davis, dialogue was a key part of this film. Although there were few scenes with action taking place, I was still drawn to this story. I was drawn to a character in particular. That character being Rose Maxson (Viola Davis, Troy Maxson’s devoted wife.

If you view the film, it is hard to argue that Rose isn’t the emotional center of the film. Rose was the glue that held it altogether. In a way, Rose’s role in the story symbolizes the role Black women play most of the time–the mule, the brick wall, the person that holds everyone up and before themselves. Women generally are expected to put others before themselves. In marriages, women are expected to value her husband and children before anything else. Unfortunately, this expectation is doubled down when it comes to Black women.

In the film, you will learn that Troy hurts Rose in one of the worst ways possible. He made a choice without considering how it would impact her and their family. Upon the confession of Troy’s mistake, Viola Davis delivers a monologue that will more than likely score her a lot of award nods. Rose reminds Troy that it is not just about him. It is about them as an unit. She reminds him that she also had dreams and aspirations. She did not just want to be where they were at. She wanted to grow.

I think many times, housewives, in films, and of that time, were not able to express what Rose expressed to Troy. So much of a woman’s life was dedicated to her family that she lost her sense of self–if she even had it to begin with.

Although very hurt, Rose carried the weight of the family but she also reminded Troy that she was not to be a mule. She was not to be someone he would take for granted. For that, I really appreciate Rose as a character and I also appreciate Viola Davis’ riveting portrayal of her.

I do recommend this film. I will say that you should prepare yourself because this story is heavy. It’s heavy but with purpose. It is another example of how Black film and television shined bright this past year.

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