I’m still extremely pleased that Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave won Best Picture at the Academy Awards on Sunday. And I’m even happier that, pegged to the win, there’s a conversation taking place about what happened to Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), the real-life free musician who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, and after his liberation wrote the abolitionist memoir on which the film is based, and to Patsey (portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work), a slave Solomon came to know during his captivity.
The last time we see Solomon in the film, he’s been returned to his family, now radically transformed during the years he spent in slavery. His daughter is grown and has a child of her own, named for the little boy’s absent grandfather. Solomon has a son-in-law. His wife is transformed before his eyes. He is profoundly grateful to be back among them, but formal, too, and apologetic. They will have to begin the task of relearning each other, proceeding from the assumption that they love each other deeply. It’s a tentatively hopeful sequence.