Wilson's screenplay, based on his own award-winning play, is a potent brew that warms your stomach upon the first swig and then simmers to a boil. It's intense, exhausting, and worth it. Washington directs as well as stars, and he takes great care to stay faithful to the source material, keeping things clear and pared down, so that the language and story's inherent drama can do the talking.
Though the action doesn't literally stay in one spot, the film's stage roots are evident in the way that almost everything takes place in one house. But this serves the story, echoing the constriction that Troy, Rose, and their sons feel. All the actors are superb, particularly Davis, who plays Rose with empathy, understanding, and texture. When she finally utters a fateful sentence toward the end of the film, you feel it slice through your heart. Fences will take some discipline and effort to stick with it in its cinematic form, stripped of the electricity of live theater, but it's still masterful.