Shola Amoo’s festival favourite The Last Tree is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama, which explores universal themes of identity and belonging.
Femi (Sam Adewunmi), a British boy of Nigerian heritage, enjoys a happy childhood in Lincolnshire, where he is raised by doting foster mother Mary and surrounded by a tight-knit group of friends—until his real mum reclaims him and deposits him into a much different life in her small inner-London flat. With little emotional bond to his mother and no remembrance of their cultural heritage, Femi struggles to adapt. As he acclimates to his new environment, Femi hardens himself, pulling away from the wishes of both of his “mothers” and forging ahead in a brazen attempt to build his own identity.
Writer/director Shola Amoo pairs a lived-in honesty with a fresh, exciting stylistic panache in this depiction of the crooked—and at times perilous—path to manhood. The lyrical texture of Amoo’s filmmaking both visually and aurally expresses the changes in Femi’s internal state, while this unflinchingly unsentimental coming-of-age film consistently defies our expectations of what will happen next.