Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes his living as a sanitation worker in 1950s Pittsburgh. Maxson once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, but was deemed too old when the major leagues began admitting black athletes. Bitter over his missed opportunity, Troy creates further tension in his family when he squashes his son's (Jovan Adepo) chance to meet a college football recruiter.
Fences is a 2016 American drama film directed by Denzel Washington and written by August Wilson, based on his Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name (Wilson died in 2005, but completed a screenplay before his death). The film stars Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sidney.
Principal photography on the film began on April 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the Hill District, and wrapped in mid June 2016. Fences was released in the United States on December 16, 2016, by Paramount Pictures, received positive reviews and has grossed $41 million. The film was chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2016, and has been nominated for numerous awards, including Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for Washington and a Best Supporting Actress win for Davis.
In 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) lives with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo), and works as a waste collector alongside his best friend, Jim Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson). Troy's older brother, Gabe Maxson (Mykelti Williamson), sustained a head injury in World War II that left him mentally impaired, for which he received a $3000 government payout that Troy used to purchase a home for his family. Gabe has since moved out, but still lives in the neighborhood, where he is often tormented by the local children.
In his adolescence, Troy left home and became a robber to sustain himself. After killing a man during a robbery led him to prison, he met Bono and revealed himself to be a talented baseball player. He then played in the professional Negro Leagues, but never made it to Major League Baseball. Although it is likely that he was rejected due to his advanced age, Troy firmly believes he was passed over due to the color of his skin. Having survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in his youth, Troy claims to have done so by defeating the Grim Reaper in a fistfight, upon which the Reaper vowed to return for a rematch.
Troy's estranged son from a previous relationship, Lyons Maxson (Russell Hornsby), infrequently visits him to borrow money, upsetting Troy, whose belief in responsibility rejects Lyons' pursuing his dream of becoming a musician instead of finding a real job; Troy refuses to even visit the bar where his son's band is playing. Rose later tells Troy that Cory is being scouted by a college football team, but Troy is dismissive of Cory's chances of reaching the NFL. Not only is he stung by his own lack of success in baseball, but he believes that racial discrimination is still common in the major leagues. He tells Cory that he will not sign the permission documents if the college recruiter visits their home. He does not want his son to fail as he did, but there is also some jealousy that Cory might achieve the success that had eluded the father.
Rose asks Troy to build a fence around their house, and Troy demands that Cory help him as punishment for Cory not doing his chores due to football practice. Troy and Cory clash over Cory's ambitions of an NFL career. On learning that Cory is not working at his part-time job due to football practice, Troy demands that he return to the job, despite Cory's attempts to convince him that the job is being held for him until football season is over.
Troy achieves a promotion to driving the garbage truck, becoming the first African-American to do so in Pittsburgh even though he can't read and doesn't have a driver's license. Bono finds out that Troy is cheating on Rose with Alberta, a woman he met at the local bar and alerts him his actions will have repercussions. The two then become estranged when Troy is assigned to a different neighborhood. Troy later finds out that Cory did not return to his part time job at the A&P, and forces Cory's coach to kick him off team; Troy also refuses to meet with the college scout who plans to visit their home. Cory lashes out and throws his helmet at Troy, which Troy claims is the first of Cory's three permitted offenses. When called to bail Gabe out of jail for disturbing the peace, Troy unknowingly signs papers rerouting half of Gabe's pension to a psychiatric hospital, forcing Gabe to be institutionalized.
Troy is forced to reveal his affair to Rose when his mistress becomes pregnant, leading to an argument in which Troy aggressively grabs Rose, causing Cory to intervene and knock Troy into a fence, which Troy marks as Cory's second offense. In the following months, Troy and Rose become estranged, although they keep living in the same house, and Troy continues to visit the mistress, who ultimately dies in childbirth after going into early labor, leading an embittered Troy to angrily challenge the Reaper for another fight.
Troy brings his baby daughter Raynell home, and Rose decides to raise her as her own, but refuses to accept Troy back into her life. Cory enlists in the United States Marine Corps after missing his opportunity to attend college. When he returns home, Troy blocks his path and instigates a fight in which Cory swings at Troy with a baseball bat. Troy gains the upper hand, grabs the bat from Cory and kicks him out of the house. Energized by his victory, Troy once again challenges the Reaper to come for him.
Seven years later, Troy has died of a heart attack, and Cory, now a USMC Corporal, returns home to visit Rose, who admits to loving Troy despite his many flaws. Cory refuses to attend the funeral, but Rose pleads that Troy is still a part of him, and Cory later reconsiders after interacting with both Lyons and an older Raynell (Saniyya Sidney). Gabe is released from the hospital to attend the funeral and reunites with his family as they all plead their farewells to Troy with forgiveness that may not be fully deserved.