The Last Tree is a 2019 British drama film directed by Shola Amoo. It was screened in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
This sombre, yet heartfelt and warmly acted drama is from Shola Amoo, whose 2016 debut was the engaging docudrama A Moving Image, about communities in Brixton, south London. The Last Tree is about a Nigerian-British boy called Femi (played as a young kid by Tai Golding, and as an older teenager by Sam Adewunmi) who was fostered out to Mary (Denise Black), a carer in the countryside, because of unspecified problems suffered by Femi’s mum – a strong performance from Gbemisola Ikumelo.
Ten-year-old Femi lives a happy, idyllic existence in this rural place, but it is all shattered when his mum shows up, now ready to take him back, and poor Femi has no choice but to comply, despite Mary having given a promise that he need never leave her. Femi now moves to a tough London neighbourhood and he finds that his mum is an old-school strict disciplinarian who thinks nothing of hitting him with a stick.
Embittered, resentful Femi grows up to be a tough guy and drifts into drug-dealing, though radiating a knowledge that what he is doing is wrong, but also that wrong has been done to him.
It’s a charismatic performance from Adewunmi, and Amoo’s camera often comes in close to his face and his gaze, suggesting that Femi is on the verge of some kind of epiphany or vision – and it’s nothing to do with the drugs.
There’s a very intriguing and unexpected coda section in Nigeria that widens the movie’s narrative focus.
NADIA SAWALHA & FAMILY
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