A family’s limits are put to the test when the couple’s son wants to seek a future in football on a scholarship, despite his father’s protests, and a kept secret breaks through, causing a rift between the husband and wife.
The film is based on the stage play of the same name, the screenplay was also written by the writer of said play. Often times you can really tell that it’s based on a stage production by how it more often than not uses one single setting; that being the house of the family. It also features various time jumps and transitions that you don’t even know happened until they are mentioned. Not gonna lie, this aspect of the narrative bugged me a little, as did the excessive length. It’s not a total deal breaker, but it did distract me a little bit. That said, it’s still a very well-told story that despite not much going on, the character are the ones that really tell the story. It’s not entirely the film the trailer gives off. The dynamic between the father and son is just a sliver of the plot. There is so much that is brought to the table that some people can find relatable as far as their own families. We have a father who lets his pride, bitterness, and self-righteousness take hold more than the love and support that a father should. He’s the definition of a hard-ass. The mother is the one who tries to be supportive of both the husband and son and keep the peace between them, but we also get glimpse of how she’s living in the shadow of the very husband she’s supporting. And finally there is the son who has dreams of his own that are stomped on by his father, and is determined to not end up being like him. By the end of the film, you realize that this is a film that provides the brutally honest truth that most of us can’t ever seem to accept when it comes to our families. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but after the movie was over and I realized what the story was saying, I felt not only a sense of denial, but could also feel myself realizing this truth, and how very factual it is, especially where it was so realistically played out right in front of me. While I still question some of the motives of some of the characters (consisting mainly of why they didn’t take certain actions while they could), it still bugs me, but the revelation at the end of film puts it all into perspective. Denzel Washington not only stars in but directs the film, and he does a brilliant job of building the drama between these characters to the point where some of the scenes become super intense and even suspenseful. Not only that but he directs the cast perfectly in adapting themselves into the scenes and following them around and making the single set scenes strong focal points.
Denzel Washington provides his best performance since Training Day. He plays the role of the father and husband with such intensity, eccentricity, and intimidation that you find him so despicable and Washington completely loses himself in the role. Viola Davis is a powerhouse as always and delivers her finest work yet. She captures the trapped place the character finds herself being her duty as a mother and wife, and what she really wants from her life and the duties she has to herself. There’s been a lot of Oscar buzz for these two actors, and at this point, these two rightfully deserve the Oscar for their respective nominations (I would be shocked if neither were nominated). It’s also worth noting Jovan Adepo as Washington and Davis’ son. At the start of the film we see this young man terrified of his father, but also a determination and anger surging through him, waiting to break out. And Adepo displays this terrifically. But it’s in the film’s climax that we see all of the anger and emotions of this character let out and he nails it.
Not since August: Osage County (another stage play about family drama) have I seen such brilliant and gritty performances displaying family dynamics in a brutally honest way. Even if the length is excessive and the time jumps can be distracting, it is the actors and their character that help tell this brilliant story due to their dynamite performances. In some ways this is the most brutally honest film you will ever see about a family that may hit close to home to you based on the themes at hand.