Fences Parent Guide
Based on a stage play by August Wilson, this dysfunctional family drama feels more depressing than inspiring while examining the barriers some people build in their relationships.
Parent Movie Review
“Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in,” observes Bono (Stephen Henderson) to his best friend and co-worker Troy (Denzel Washington). While neither man seems to be making much progress with the wooden structure they have been asked to erect in the backyard, Troy has indeed put up many metaphorical fences in his life and personal relationships.
Boarding off his painful past, Troy has enclosed his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and teenaged son Cory (Jovan Adepo) within his strong sense of duty and responsibility, while keeping at bay the outside world. He occasionally allows Lyons (Russell Hornsby), his older son from a previous relationship, to enter his domain even though he knows the starving musician is just looking for a handout. Only Gabe (Mykelti Williamson), Troy’s mentally challenged brother appears to have his own key to the gate, and permission to wander in and out at will.
But Troy’s rule over his carefully partitioned universe gets challenged when outside opportunities for Cory come knocking. Refusing to believe the racial prejudices of the past might be changing in 1950s America, the controlling father keeps his son penned in by his narrow perspective. And he stubbornly ignores his wife’s pleas to allow the boy to explore his own dreams for the future. When it is later revealed that Troy himself hasn’t been staying within his own strict boundaries, his family and friends start putting up walls of their own.
Most of the plot in this dialogue-heavy production follows the characters’ changing motives to either protect each other or defend themselves against one another. Frequent alcohol consumption adds fuel to confrontations and verbal threats that eventually extend into physical altercations where participants fear for their life. The script includes frequent foul language and racial slurs as well, along with discussions of domestic violence, sexual abuse, infidelity and children born out of wedlock.
Based on a play by August Wilson, the production never quite loses its stagy feel, likely because most of the scenes take place in one location. Denzel Washington does double duty as actor and director, which perhaps explains why wears his character like a suit that doesn’t quite fit. Viola Davis, on the other hand, is exceptional as the mother who personifies the posts and rails that hold the family fence together.
While this dysfunctional family drama is more depressing than inspiring, it is certain to impress at least one strong warning on those who view the film: Once you have built a barrier it is hard to tear it down, so be careful when choosing which things to encircle and which things to close out.Directed by Denzel Washington. Starring Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson . Running time: 139 minutes. Theatrical release December 25, 2016. Updated July 17, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is Fences rated PG-13? Fences is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements, language and some suggestive references.
Violence: Characters complain about racial prejudice and unequal opportunities. Past domestic abuse is described. Tension between a father and son evolves into a physical altercation that threatens to end in serious injury or death. A man with mental illness is teased, bullied, taken advantage of and placed in a hospital. Characters confess to stealing, lying and doing time in prison. Death from childbirth is mentioned. Characters engage in verbal arguments. A mother smacks her child.
Sexual Content: Characters engage in banter that includes sexual references and innuendo. Infidelity, adultery, minors having sex and sexual abuse are mentioned. Children born out of wedlock and families composed of step-siblings are also discussed. A married couple embraces, kisses and flirtatiously wrestles. Men are seen in underwear.
Profanity: Frequent use of mild and moderate cursing. Infrequent use of scatological slang and crude expressions. Ethno-cultural slurs are heard pervasively.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Frequent portrayals of alcohol use, often to excess. Character’s smoke infrequently.
Other: A character turns to religion to find peace during a difficult time.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
Fences Parents' Guide
What kinds of fences does Troy build for his family members? What motivates him to construct them? Why is he discontent with being fenced in himself? How do his control issues affect those he is trying to hold onto the most?
Rose also builds fences. Why do her enclosures feel welcoming while Troy’s feel imprisoning? What motivates her to want to keep the family close? How are Rose’s views of duty and responsibility more gentle and compassionate than Troy’s? How might their differences of perspective also account for which of the two of them experiences greater joy when giving?
Why do you think Rose loves and respects her often difficult husband? What kind of loyalty does Troy show his wife? How might trails and disappointments pull a couple together? Why do they sometimes drive them apart?
The most recent home video release of Fences movie is March 14, 2017. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: Fences
Release Date: 14 March 2017
Fences releases to home video (Blu-ray/Digital HD) with the following extras:
- Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen
- The Company of Fences
- Building Fences: Denzel Washington
- Playing the Part: Rose Maxson
- August Wilson’s Hill District