- Derek Luke
- Malcolm David Kelley
- Denzel Washington
The protagonist, Antwone Fisher is played by the up and coming young actor, Derek Luke. Luke is a young sailor, filled with rage, easily provoked, and often unable to control his emotional outbursts. His temper soon earns him several mandatory sessions with a naval psychiatrist; played by Denzel Washington (he also directed the film). Early on, their personalities clash, but eventually Washington unlocks the two sources of Luke's anger-an abusive childhood and a pervading fear of being abandoned.
The film takes us on a journey of Luke's life, one marked by periods of intense loneliness and sadness while being driven by a constant search (an obsession) for family. It is through Luke's life that we learn that perseverance can carry us through the periods of darkness and eventually deliver some form of happiness
By counseling and befriending Luke, Washington enables him to deal with his lifelong sadness and move on. When the film wants to grab at your heart, it succeeds with good writing and convincing performances by Luke and Washington. In a graphic abuse scene from Luke's childhood, Washington artistically and gutterly insures that we not only empathize with Antwone, we personally experience his helplessness. This scene, which showcases Washington's directorial skill, places Luke in a full frontal position, trembling, with the whites of his eyes looking directly at the camera (the viewer). Anyone watching the screen can't help but be mesmerized by the abject fear in Luke's eyes.
As the film progresses, Washington, the director, introduces two minor twists to the plot. The first highlights Luke's reluctance to trust as he begins dating for the first time. This sub-point is purposeful and displays the infinite lingering effects of Luke's childhood on his adulthood. The second involves martial (family) problems within the psychiatrist's life which, while ironic, is never developed.
Much like his performance as a compassionate lawyer in Philadelphia, Denzel Washington's screen presence in Antwone Fisher commands our attention and emotions, leaving few dry eyes in the theater. This film's writing, direction and acting exposes our souls and grabs our hearts.