Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington, who also directs) is a garbage collector in 1950's Pittsburgh. Every payday, he sits in his backyard and, with the creative stimulation of half a bottle of gin, spouts highly improbable stories about how he beat Death in a fight. He's embittered about the lack of opportunity for black people and he's got plenty of witticism-filled homilies to express his frustration. Basically, this is the most Denzel Washington role ever.
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are a powerhouse duo, one that doesn't need a change of setting or even a great deal of movement to emotionally ruin you.
Without a conventional plot, Fences is more a tale of legacy, with Troy bemoaning the way he's been treated by his father and a white-dominant society. Ironically, his alcohol-fuelled rants and refusal to accept change is causing his son Cory (Jovan Adepo) to resent him in the exact same way.
Why you should see it on the big screen
Because watching an unaltered stage play in film-form makes for an incredible cinematic experience.
Fences is not so much adapted from August Wilson's play, but rather left untouched, picked up and planted right in front of a camera. It's almost entirely set in Troy's house and backyard, with very little in the way of physical action. Naturally, that means it's a dialogue-heavy affair, but that only makes it more impressive that it's still able to grip you by the stomach and churn it at will. By playing out exactly as it would on stage, it becomes a truly unique cinematic experience, with nothing to distract from the mammoth performances.
This is Washington's best display since his Oscar-winning turn in Training Day, while close-ups of Davis's face reaffirm her credentials as one of the best criers in the business.