Antwone Fisher

Stars: Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, Salli Richardson, Yolonda Ross, Stephen Snedden
Director: Denzel Washington
Screenwriter: Antwone Quenton Fisher, based on Antwone Fisher’s autobiography Finding Fish

Actor Denzel Washington has made a very successful directorial debut in bringing us this heart- warming tale.

Leisurely paced, but ultimately satisfying for its interesting subject matter and good acting, Antwone Fisher relates the story of an angry young man who joined the Navy only to discover that his lack of social skills puts him on the verge of getting booted out of the service. It’s based on a true story and Derek Luke, in his first major role, does an outstanding job portraying the sensitive yet troubled 25 year old who can hardly speak to girls but knows no boundaries when it comes to using his fists to cope with imagined or real insults from his shipmates.

As a result of his repeated infractions, Antwone is sent to Navy psychiatrist Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington) who manages with great difficulty to get the sailor to open up to him. It is in this process that we get to discover that this one man’s anger comes from a lifetime of raw deals including abandonment as an infant, deep psychological and physical abuse at the hands of his foster mother and even sexual abuse by another woman at the tender age of 6.

Davenport, himself struggling with a damaged marriage which is depicted ever so subtle, as this is first and always Fisher’s story, takes great care with Antwone, even inviting him to his home for Thanksgiving dinner. Antwone, in turn, comes to rely upon the good doctor as a surrogate father. It is through Davenport’s help that Antwone turns his life around, getting the courage to date a pretty girl named Cheryl who works at the naval exchange and finally to seek out the family back in Cleveland that he never knew.

Lotta says: This is a touching story without being over sentimentalized. There’s just the right amount of humor due to script and directorial touches amid brutally honest moments told in flashback involving the abuses against Antwone. The sexual abuse scene is handled with extreme care: a shot of a basement window with only the woman’s enticements heard. Washington, as always, does a nice acting job and he is well supported by Joy Bryant as Antwone’s girlfriend and Salli Richardson as Davenport’s wife.

Reviewed: December 12, 2002