Review by Paul Stathakis | 2002

The war within

Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke) is a sailor with a bad temper. Early on in the film, a racial remark easily sets him off and he brawls with a shipmate. Fisher pleads guilty and his instructor quickly deports him to a medical center. There, he is obligated to meet with base psychiatrist Dr. Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington).

Davenport is a good-natured doctor and a loving husband who wants to help Fisher. But naval rules and regulations limit both men to three sessions of therapy.

In the beginning, Fisher is timid. He refuses to discuss, believing that he doesn’t have a problem. Meanwhile, Davenport remains patient. He sits at his desk and completes paperwork, waiting for Fisher to make the first move and talk.

The first session begins when Fisher finally decides to speak. Their first conversation is basic. Fisher recalls his disturbing past. He informs Davenport that his father was shot by an ex-girlfriend and that his mother gave birth to him while in prison. He never got to know his mother since she temporarily placed him in a foster home and never returned to claim him.

The plot thickens. Davenport believes there’s more to Fisher than mere “bad luck”. He slowly reaches deep inside Fisher’s mind and sould to uncover his darkest secrets and frightening childhood memories. What initially begins as a patient-doctor relationship soon escalates into a father-son type attachment. Fisher and Davenport form a strong bond and the result, a movie with an undying strength.

“Antwone Fisher” is an inspiring film. Not only is the script (written by the real Antwone Fisher himself) rich and poetic, but the story is moving. Newcomer Derek Luke is the movie’s main attraction. It’s actually hard to believe that this is Luke’s first onscreen performance. He is charismatic and believable. The same goes for Washington, who not only delivers a warm performance, but steps in the director’s chair for the first time.

Washington’s directorial debut, much like Clooney’s with “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”, is striking. I will not speak much about it since it is so finely setup. But what I loved most about “Antwone Fisher” was its tragic side. It tells a sad story, about a man who is indeed at war with himself, like the ad states. As a youngster, Fisher witnessed moments of terror and never spoke about them to anyone. But there comes a time in everyone’s life, where one must face reality and free his/her mind — no matter how hard it is.

Deep down inside, we all have secrets. Some are extraordinary and some, upsetting. Sometimes these secrets, for a reason or another, transform us. They shape our character. They transport our mind and heart to faraway places. Suddenly, we feel an urge to speak about these secrets and these places. And that is why turn to our family. We can depend on them and we can trust them. They are the best listeners and the most comforting people to be around.

U.S. journalist/writer Jane Howard once wrote, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” That’s the general message behind “Antwone Fisher.”


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