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Fences is a solid directorial debut from Denzel Washington, who expertly adapts the play of the same title that he received acclaim for starring in. Washington understands his limits of a director, focusing on only specific locations and remaining intent on showcasing the excellent performances. Although it’s simple, the film is a great depiction of manhood and family, with some of the best characters of the year.

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a garbage man in the 1950s, trying to care for his wife (Viola Davis) and son (Jovan Adepo). Maxson conflicts with his son, who’s attempts to get into college clash with his working man lifestyle, and begins to reveal secrets that may destroy his family. Washington is perfection here; he commands the screen with energy and intensity, giving complexity to a character who ranges from charismatic to despicable.

Also brilliant is Viola Davis, who’s contained and subdued performance as Maxson’s wife will likely earn her an Academy Award next year. It’s a long film, but the continuously interesting writing keeps the film engaging, making a film that is more fascinating than it is emotional. Denzel Washington has proven to not only be one of the best actors of his generation, but also an extremely promising director. Grade: B+