Fences (film)

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Fences (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDenzel Washington
Screenplay byAugust Wilson
Based onFences
by August Wilson
Produced by
CinematographyCharlotte Bruus Christensen
Edited byHughes Winborne
Music byMarcelo Zarvos
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • December 15, 2016 (2016-12-15) (Curran Theatre)
  • December 16, 2016 (2016-12-16) (United States)
Running time
139 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$24 million[2]
Box office$64.4 million[2]

Fences is a 2016 American period drama film starring, produced and directed by Denzel Washington and written by August Wilson, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 play of the same name. In addition to Washington, the film also stars Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sidney.

Principal photography took place from April 25 to June 14, 2016, in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Fences was released in the United States on December 16, 2016, by Paramount Pictures. It received positive reviews from critics, with praise directed at Washington's performance and direction, Davis's performance, the screenplay, pacing, cinematography and emotional tone, though some criticized the transfer from stage to screen for its lack of a cinematic feel. Critics found the film "extremely powerful and effective."[3] It was also a commercial success, grossing $64 million against a $24 million production budget.

The film was chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2016,[4] and was nominated for numerous awards, including four Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Washington), Best Supporting Actress (Davis) and Best Adapted Screenplay, with Davis winning for her performance. It also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for Washington and a Best Supporting Actress win for Davis.[5]


In 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson lives with his wife Rose and their son Cory, and works as a garbage collector alongside his best friend, Jim Bono. Troy's younger brother, Gabriel, sustained a head injury in World War II that left him mentally impaired, for which he received a $3,000 government payout that Troy subsequently uses as a down payment on a home for his family. Gabriel has since moved out to live across the street at "Miss Pearl's" house, so Troy no longer gets rent money from Gabe, which places the family under financial strain. Gabe sometimes gets in trouble with the law for his erratic behavior. Rose suggests to Troy that Gabe might be better off residing in a hospital.

Troy left home at 14 after beating up his abusive father, and became a robber to sustain himself. While serving prison time for killing a man during a robbery, he met Bono and revealed himself to be a talented baseball player. He then played in the professional Negro leagues; but he never made it to Major League Baseball, which held a "color barrier" until 1947. Troy claims to have survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in his youth by defeating Death in a wrestling match, upon which Death vowed to return for a rematch.

Lyons, Troy's son from a previous relationship, visits him on Troy's payday to borrow money; this upsets Troy, who believes a man has a responsibility to work hard to find his own way and provide for his family. Rose later tells Troy that Cory is being scouted by a college football team, but Troy is dismissive of Cory's chances of playing professional football and refuses to sign the permission slip, saying he does not want Cory to fail in athletics as he did.

Rose asks Troy to build a fence around their house, and Troy asks that Cory help him on Saturdays. On learning that Cory is not working at his after-school job at the A&P because it interferes with football practice, Troy demands that he return to the job, despite Cory's attempts to convince him that he will work weekends instead of during the week.

After complaining about his company's racist employment practices, Troy is promoted to driving the garbage truck, becoming the first African-American to do so in Pittsburgh. Bono finds out that Troy is cheating on Rose with Alberta, a woman he sees at Taylor's (a bar) and encourages him to break it off. Troy later finds out that Cory did not return to his job, and so tells the coach that Cory is no longer allowed to play. Troy also refuses to sign papers that would allow Cory to be recruited for college football. Cory lashes out and throws his helmet at Troy, who warns his son not to disrespect him again. Troy (who is illiterate) signs papers rerouting half of Gabriel's pension to a psychiatric hospital, forcing Gabriel to be institutionalized. The other half of Gabe's pension is to be sent monthly to Troy.

After Troy impregnates Alberta, he is forced to reveal his affair to Rose, which leads to an argument in which Troy aggressively grabs Rose's arm. Cory intervenes and knocks Troy into the fence. Months later, Alberta dies in childbirth. Troy angrily challenges "Mr. Death" to another fight.

Troy brings his baby daughter, Raynell, home, and Rose agrees to raise her as her own, but refuses to accept Troy back into her life. Cory is considering enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, having missed his opportunity to attend college with a football scholarship. One day, when Cory returns home, an intoxicated and bitter Troy blocks his path and instigates a fight in which Cory swings at Troy with a baseball bat. Troy grabs the bat from Cory and drives him out of the yard. Disoriented, Troy once again challenges Death to come for him.

Troy wipes the remonstrances of Rose. Then, drunk, he has a severe fight in front of the house with Cory. He has a friendly discussion in a bistro with his old friend and work colleague Bono.

Six years later, Troy and Alberta's daughter Raynell is playing in the garden. Troy has died of a heart attack, and Cory, now a USMC corporal, returns home, but informs Rose he will not attend Troy's funeral. Rose admits to loving Troy despite his many flaws and pleads that Troy is still a part of Cory. Cory reconsiders after sharing memories of Troy with Raynell. Lyons is serving three years in prison for forgery, and gets a furlough to attend the funeral. Similarly, Gabriel is released from the hospital to attend and reunites with his family as they all bid farewell to Troy. Gabriel plays his trumpet and succeeds on the third try for St. Peter to open the gates of Heaven for Troy, and the sun glistens over them.



The film was adapted from August Wilson's play Fences. Production culminated in the 2016 release of the film, over a decade after Wilson's death.

Previous attempts to adapt Fences for the screen had been fruitless, partly due to Wilson's insistence on an African-American director.[6] In a 2013 interview with Empire, Denzel Washington expressed his intention to star in and direct an adaptation of Fences, reprising his role from the 2010 Broadway revival of the play, which like the film, was produced by Scott Rudin.[7]

On January 28, 2016, it was reported that Rudin, Washington and Todd Black would produce a film adaptation of the play, directed by Washington and starring Washington and Viola Davis, reprising their roles from the 2010 revival that earned both actors Tony Awards.[8] Playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner came aboard to build on a draft written by Wilson before his death in 2005.[9] However, Wilson is the only credited screenwriter for the film,[10] while Kushner received a co-producer credit. Black explained that Washington insisted that they remain faithful to Wilson's work, saying, "The star of the movie is the screenplay and August Wilson's words. What Denzel said to me, to Scott, to all the actors, the cinematographer, and the production designer was, 'Don't make any decision without August Wilson's words leading you to make that decision.' Whatever you do, let the words inform your decision first. That's what we all had to abide by."[11]

On April 4, 2016, Mykelti Williamson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Stephen McKinley Henderson and Saniyya Sidney joined the cast, with Williamson, Hornsby and Henderson also reprising their roles from the 2010 production.[12]

On April 25, 2016, it was reported that Fences had begun filming in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.[13] On June 14, 2016, principal photography was completed.[14][15] Post-production was completed in mid-November.[16] Charlotte Bruus Christensen was the director of photography,[17] David Gropman was the production designer,[18] Sharen Davis was the costume designer,[19] Hughes Winborne edited the film,[20] Sean Devereaux was the visual effects supervisor,[21] and Marcelo Zarvos composed the film's score.[22]


The film held its world premiere at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, California on December 15, 2016.[23] It began a limited release on December 16, 2016, before opening wide in 2,223 theaters on December 25.[24]

Home media[edit]

Fences was released on Digital HD on February 24, 2017,[25] and on Blu-ray and DVD on March 14, 2017.[26][27]


Box office[edit]

Fences grossed $57.7 million in the United States and Canada and $6.7 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $64.4 million, against a production budget of $24 million.[2]

Fences opened in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles on December 16, and was expected to gross $50–75,000 per theater in its limited opening weekend. It ended up making a total of $128,000, good for a per-theater average of $32,000.[28] The film went into wide release (2,223 theaters) on Christmas Day and grossed $6.7 million; over its first two days it made $11.5 million.[29] In its first full weekend the following week, the film made $10 million, finishing 6th at the box office.[30]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 269 reviews, with an average rating of 7.60/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged — and still just as powerful."[31] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[32] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[33]

The performances of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis garnered widespread critical acclaim and were nominated for Academy Awards, with Davis winning.

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe wrote, "You don't get groundbreaking cinema from Fences, but what you do get – two titanic performances and an immeasurable American drama – makes up for that."[34] Catherine Shoard of Guardian gave 4 out of 5 stars and praised the performances of Washington and Davis saying " Denzel Washington and Viola Davis set to convert Tonys to Oscars."[35] Terrl White of Empire gave a full 5 stars and calling the film "A simply extraordinary film without crashes, bangs and wallops but full of towering performances delivered with intelligence, power and heart."[36] A.O. Scott of New York Times gave a positive review and highlighted the performances of Washington and Davis by saying " If the sound were to suddenly fail — or if the dialogue were dubbed into Martian — the impact of the performances would still be palpable."[37] Owen Gleiberman of Variety also gave a positive review and praising the performances by saying "The acting is all superb."[38]

In a negative review, David Edelstein of New York wrote, "It's not cinematic enough to make you forget you're watching something conceived for another, more spatially constricted medium, but it's too cinematic to capture the intensity, the concentration, of a great theatrical event."[39]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ McCarthy, Todd (November 22, 2016). "'Fences' Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Fences". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  3. ^ Fences (2016), retrieved 2020-10-03
  4. ^ Hipes, Patrick (December 8, 2016). "AFI Awards: Best Of 2016 Film List Includes 'Silence', 'Hacksaw Ridge' & More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  5. ^ "Golden Globes 2017: The Complete List of Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. December 12, 2016. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  6. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (August 4, 2014). "When August Wilson Insisted on a Black Director for a Hollywood Adaptation of 'Fences'..." Indiewire. Archived from the original on May 13, 2016. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  7. ^ Goldberg, Matt (February 1, 2013). "Denzel Washington Aiming to Adapt August Wilson's FENCES as Next Directing Project". Collider. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  8. ^ Busch, Anita (January 28, 2016). "Tony Kushner Comes Aboard Denzel Washington's 'Fences' For Paramount". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  9. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (January 28, 2016). "Kushner Tapped for 'Fences' Screenplay + Fall 2016 Release Eyed for Oscar Consideration". IndieWire. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  10. ^ Davis, Clayton (August 10, 2016). "As per a rep from Paramount Pictures, only August Wilson is the credited screenwriter for "Fences" – no longer Tony Kushner". Twitter. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  11. ^ McKittrick, Christopher (February 13, 2017). ""The star of the movie is the screenplay." August Wilson's Fences". Creative Screenwriting. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  12. ^ Busch, Anita; D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 4, 2016). "Mykelti Williamson & Russell Hornsby Reprise Roles For 'Fences' Movie". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  13. ^ "'Fences' filming turns back the clock in Pittsburgh". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 25, 2016. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  14. ^ Crawley, Dave (June 14, 2016). "Denzel Washington's Production Of "Fences" Wraps Filming In The Hill District". KDKA-TV. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  15. ^ Obenson, Tambay (June 14, 2016). "Filming Has Wrapped on Denzel Washington's 'Fences' Film Adaptation; Viola Davis Shares Set Pics (Oscar Potential?))". Shadow and Act. Archived from the original on October 18, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  16. ^ Michael Cieply (September 15, 2016). "Delicious Complications As Denzel Washington & Scott Rudin Reach For The Black Cinema Torch". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  17. ^ Bill Desowitz (October 6, 2016). "Why 'The Girl on the Train' and 'Fences' Shot on Film". IndieWire. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  18. ^ "Fences – Bron Studios". Bron Studios. Archived from the original on October 9, 2016. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  19. ^ David S. Cohen (August 9, 2016). "How Sharen Davis Went From Actress to Oscar-Nominated Costume Designer". Variety. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  20. ^ Clayton Davis (August 30, 2016). "Oscars: Telluride, 'Silence', Editor for 'Fences', and 'Live By Night' staying 2017?". AwardsCircuit. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  21. ^ Sean Devereaux (September 27, 2016). "FENCES is a true work of art. I am so proud to be a part of it. SaveTheDate, this is the film to see this Christmas!". Twitter. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  22. ^ "Marcelo Zarvos to Score Denzel Washington's 'Fences'". FilmMusicReporter.com. October 4, 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  23. ^ Gioia, Michael. "San Francisco's Curran Reopens to Host Fences Film Premiere". Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  24. ^ Mendelson, Scott (December 26, 2016). "Box Office: 'Sing' Soars, 'Passengers' Recovers, 'Fences' Breaks Out On Christmas Day". Forbes. Retrieved December 30, 2016. expanded ... to 2,223 theaters yesterday after keeping it in limited release for the last 10 days. The August Wilson adaptation earned a smashing $6.688 million opening day, ... long term predictions are challenging for this $20–$25m production ... but this is a smashingly impressive single-day debut for a film that will absolutely be a big part of the Oscar conversation. It has earned $11.528m thus far.
  25. ^ "Fences (2016)". DVD Release Dates. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  26. ^ "FENCES Film Coming to Blu-ray Combo Pack & Digital HD". Broadway World. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  27. ^ Hunt, Bill. "The Digital Bits". Fences official, plus the 4K floodgates are opening: Gladiator, Bridge on the River Kwai & more are on the way. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  28. ^ "'Rogue One' Flying To $152M+ Weekend; 'Collateral Beauty' A Career B.O. Low For Will Smith: PM Update". Deadline Hollywood.
  29. ^ Mendelson, Scott (December 26, 2016). "Box Office: 'Sing' Soars, 'Passengers' Recovers, 'Fences' Breaks Out On Christmas Day". Forbes. Retrieved December 26, 2016. In other "new wide release" news, Paramount/Viacom Inc. expanded the Denzel Washington/Viola Davis drama Fences to 2,223 theaters yesterday
  30. ^ "Weekend Box Office: December 30-January 1, 2017". Box Office Mojo.
  31. ^ "Fences (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  32. ^ "Fences reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  33. ^ "Rogue One' & 'Sing' Christmas Juggernaut Leaves Room For Specialty Films – Final Weekend Update". Deadline Hollywood. December 27, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  34. ^ Burr, Ty (December 22, 2016). "Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give titanic performances in 'Fences'". Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  35. ^ "Fences review: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis set to convert Tonys to Oscars". the Guardian. 2016-11-22. Retrieved 2021-01-17.
  36. ^ "Fences". Empire. 2017-02-06. Retrieved 2021-01-17.
  37. ^ Scott, A. O. (2016-12-15). "Review: Beneath the Bombast, 'Fences' Has an Aching Poetry (Published 2016)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-17.
  38. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (2016-11-22). "Film Review: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in 'Fences'". Variety. Retrieved 2021-01-17.
  39. ^ David Edelstein (December 23, 2016). "Denzel Washington's Fences Gets Stuck Between Stage and Screen". Vulture. New York Magazine. Retrieved December 30, 2016. There's a literal fence at the center of Fences, but it doesn't resonate onscreen the way it does onstage. It's not a living metaphor. Troy, a gifted baseball player, was fenced-out of the major leagues when he was young but was too old to strut his stuff when he emerged after a long stint in prison. Now, he sees fences everywhere. The fence that he's building, though, underscores the barrier he has erected between him and his sons, one from each of his marriages.

External links[edit]