the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by August Wilson, was written in 1983 and had its premiere on Broadway in 1987.
But the play is set 30 years before that, in a lower-middle-class black section of Pittsburgh in the mid-1950s, and when you watch it now, in the towering and impassioned screen version directed by its star, Denzel Washington, it feels like you’re seeing a work from a distant time, like “A Raisin in the Sun” crossed with “Death of a Salesman.”
For long stretches, that slight period remove works for the movie: “Fences” is an anguished family drama forged out of an exotically old-fashioned sense of destiny. Yet if Wilson’s play is on some level timeless, only rarely does “Fences,” as a movie, hit you in the solar plexus with its relevance. It’s more like a long day’s journey into something weighty and epic and prestigious.