A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Most people are trying to do their best with the rusty tools they have in this world. Forgiveness is a powerful tool, if you're able to use it. Themes include perseverance.
Positive Role Models
All of the characters are realistically human -- and flawed; they represent various shades of gray. Rose stands out a a pillar of patience and devotion.
Violence & Scariness
A father and son come to blows, shoving each other while screaming and yelling at each other. Their anger and rage is very clear. A main character seems to be struggling under the weight of so much resentment and disappointment at the world and his place in it. In one scene, a man describes a murder he committed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Frank conversation about a man's infidelity. Some allusions to sex, but no nudity.
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Infrequent swearing includes "s--t," "ass," "hell" and "goddammit." The "N" word is used very frequently.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A man buys a pint of gin every Friday and proceeds to drink it, with or without friends. He's also shown at a bar drowning his sorrows.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in Fences, which was adapted by playwright August Wilson from his own play. It's a powerful drama that deals with intense subjects including infidelity, prejudice, crime and punishment, father/son anger, and forgiveness -- as well as perseverance. So, while things like sexual and violent content aren't graphic, the film is still likely too intense for younger viewers. You can expect infrequent swearing (including "s--t") and very frequent use of the "N" word, as well as drinking, verbal and physical confrontations, the description of a murder, and a frank conversation about an affair. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate