24 May 2020 | eddie_baggins
A moving coming of age drama
A quiet and contemplative coming of age story that steers clear of "big" moments, with a focus more on the intimate and every day, The Last Tree is an impressive calling card for director Shola Amoo and lead actor Samuel Adewunmi.
There are many beats of Tree that feel familiar, outsider finds themselves in new surroundings, coming of age dramas and racial prejudices are all found here and are by no means wholly unique in their existence but Amoo's carefully considered telling of Adewunmi's Femi's trials and tribulations growing up in London with his Nigerian birth mother Yinka, after a seemingly idyllic childhood in the laid back countryside, is a film that appears to come directly from the heart.
Beautifully filmed and captured, when we first meet Femi as nothing more than a carefree member of a "wolf-pack" of youngsters, roaming the farmlands of their homes and caring little about the colour of skin or cultural differences we are very much caught in the spell of Femi's life, a life that is uprooted in stark visual and vibe contrasts when he is moved to London, a city far less welcoming to the love and nurture his come accustomed to in his early years.
From here Tree takes on a more generic storytelling arc as Femi battles to keep his head in school mode, while he battles relationship issues with his mother and the lure of a life of crime with local petty criminals who promise him brotherhood and financial gain should he care to join them in their way of life.
The tropes that are covered off in this time-frame of Femi's life don't create much in the way of surprises or unexpected plot turns but despite this and the fact we aren't always allowed access into Femi's subconscious and thought processes, Amoo's film is engaging throughout, highlighted by a strong finale that doesn't provide hard answers, but displays much with merely a simple hug or letting loose of one's inner torment by an animalistic yell.
In many ways the film's final section is representative of all that has come before it, a story that never feels the need to tell us everything or showcase every beat of its characters as it goes along its way, a film content with allowing its audience to discover its debatable intricacies for themselves as we get an insight into the nature of growing up around a society that doesn't always make it easy.
Final Say -
A strong independent offering that suggests its young director and star are ones to keep a very close eye on, The Last Tree is a polished human interest drama that is worth hunting down.
3 ½ blue braids out of 5