A draining experience that left me feeling as though I’d been punched in the gut.
The writing, mood, and cinematography are amazing. Ejiofor deserves an Oscar more than anyone I’ve seen on film. The rest of the cast are similarly fantastic.
More than that though, I’ve never been in a screening where everyone is so clearly affected. Tears, nervous shifting and a general feeling of uneasiness pervaded.
Following the misfortune of one Solomon Northup (Ejiofor) as he is tricked into the world of slavery, we witness his passing through the hands of ‘Masters’ with varying levels of empathy. Ejiofor maintains a dignity and courage as he pleads with others to not fall into despair, and fights in vain to keep hold of some semblance of his former life.
Director McQueen isn’t afraid to linger on tragic situations, forcing me to look away as Northup feebly struggles to prevent himself from hanging as his fellow slaves keep themselves to themselves for fear of finding themselves in a similar position. Some may consider it too much or grotesque. But there is no denying its power.
It’s amazing to think that this is Lupita Nyong’o’s debut! The rawness of her pleading and the pain on her face as she is brutally disciplined was something I’d have expected from a seasoned actor. Definitely one to watch.
This is not a film for the faint of heart. A scene consisting of Ejiofor simply looking around and then directly at us felt particularly intimate. I found myself wondering what I’d do in a similar position. Realising that I’d be shrugging my shoulders and saying “But what can I do?” just made me want to kick myself.
I briefly felt that I wouldn’t be able to give this film a high rating. It was so hard and so uncompromising that I doubt I’ll ever put myself through it again. Bar the occasional moment of catharsis it is not a film to be enjoyed. We are unflinchingly showed men at their lowest and forced to dwell on it.
As gut-wrenching as this film was however, I’m glad I saw it. The subject matter is never going to have the audience whooping for joy or leaving the cinema buzzing, but it will stay with us for a long time.