“Antwone Fisher,“ Denzel Washington’s directorial debut in 2002 is a movie based on a true story of a young navy man caught up and surrounded by his demons of his past sexual abuse and the abandonment of his mother. Denzel Washington who plays a burdened but concerned Navy psychiatrist portrays the role as Denzel Washington usually does, superbly. Derek Luke who plays Antwone Fisher is believable and honest with his emotions on screen. One is pulled into the movie not just because of the superb acting but because of the movies authenticity. This IS a real life trauma and it works well for there are thousands of Antwone Fishers out there in the world. One of six males to be exact have been sexually abused. Antwone Fisher, will take you on an honest, painful ride through the emotional developmental years of abuse and how that abuse parlays into adulthood. You will feel pain, anguish and enlightenment. This movie will take you away from your current stress in life and place you right in the heart of an abused man struggling to find his attributes which were always there. The relationship between Denzel Washington and Antwone does become mildly blurred from time to time, as some professional boundaries are crossed; however, this adds to the reality of working with patients who are truly in pain and willing to work on their issues. This blurring adds to the authenticity of the script and the outcome is one of hope that many abused individuals can find a healing path.
Why we recommend it:
Life trauma recommends Antwone Fisher, for its authenticity and portrayal of one man’s struggle to recognize the origin of his impulsive behavior, anger, and fear of relationships. This movie paints an accurate portrayal of how sex abuse carries into adulthood and how those effects linger and play out in may aspects of one’s life. Many movies that target sex abuse victims rarely display the attributes and how the abuse can actually accentuate these attributes. Antwone has an ability to draw as well as write poetry, which one can see how the abuse was part of his muse for this talent. Abuse is not just a childhood trauma it is a lifelong trauma and is not an event one can neatly tuck away into the past just because it was the past. Here in the movie Antwone Fisher with the guidance of his psychiatrist Denzel Washington recognize his behavior, finds the etiology, and recognizes the pairing of both. At the same time accentuating his talents. This is not a drama where one needs to come forth with the gory details of abuse and lock the audience into some cinematic drama but one that locks the audience in through their heart and their soul. When that is done well, one will never forget the impact.
Criticisms of the movie:
The movie tends to move quickly, understandably since the amount of material is very extensive. In reality it is very unusual to come to a revelation or an “Aha” experience so quickly in therapy when so many defense mechanisms have built up for so long. We must give some cinematic forgiveness here since if they portrayed this over an actual realistic time line it would of had to be a mini-series. The crossing of boundaries and some of Denzel Washington’s own transference issues with regards to his own marriage were realistic but slightly over the top. At times he recognizes this boundary issue and attempts to separate them with Antwone. A bit too late as the good Doctor was giving mixed messages to Antwone. Boundaries can often become blurred with patients in therapy, however this was a bit over the top and one may wonder the therapeutic ethics crossing the psychotherapy line.
Antwone Fisher, is a powerful movie with clinical accuracy of the effects of sex abuse and how that trauma impacts one from a negative and even a positive way. Yes, a positive way. Many victims feel that nothing from sex abuse or any life trauma is positive, however, as with Hemingway, Van Gough and others, one’s character and talent can be an outgrowth of life experience and trauma. This movie accurately portrays the ill effects of how sex abuse impacts one’s self esteem, relationships, and impulsivity. Antwone comes to realize that being a man is not someone that can fight with his fists but it is okay to feel with his heart. When one connects a life trauma to one’s own personal growth as Antwone does with the guidance of Denzel Washington, the concept of a “true self” comes together. Sex abuse, as well as neglect, as portrayed in this movie are horrendous events. One feels the horror, but is also allowed to see the work, and the growth and how the thunderstorm of a life trauma can be turned into a powerful growing experience.