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Parents' Guide to

The Last Tree

By Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Coming-of-age drama explores identity; violence, language.

Movie NR 2019 98 minutes
The Last Tree Poster Image

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Identity is at the heart of this beautiful film. Beginning in the tranquil Lincolnshire countryside, Femi -- a young British-Nigerian boy filled with the innocence of youth -- plays blissfully with his friends. Femi appears happy, living with his foster mother, Mary, a White woman who promises Femi that no one is going to take him away. But then Femi's birth mother, Yinka, arrives and does just that, taking him back to a small flat in an impoverished part of London. There, Femi is forced to find a new identity in order to fit in with his more street-wise peers. They may look more like Femi, but they are from a world Femi has no experience of. The movie then fast-forwards a number of years, with Femi now -- on the face of it -- integrated into urban life, albeit with an uneasy relationship with Yinka, who favors the stick (quite literally) when it comes to disciplining her son. Yet beneath the surface, Femi's identity struggles continue. While his friends listen to Tupac, he prefers The Cure -- something he keeps secret for fear of being cast as an outsider once again.

The cinematography in The Last Tree is beautiful. The visual contrast of the English countryside with inner-city London, and later, the bustling streets of Nigeria, permeates from the screen. Despite only being his second feature-length film, writer and director, Shola Amoo conducts proceedings with a natural confidence, inter-cutting moments of slow motion and dreamlike sequences. Adewunmi as the older Femi is also superb, portraying Femi's complex emotions with a quiet subtleness, yet equally adept at moments of explosive rage and release. Femi's relationship with Mace -- the local hoodlum who tries to recruit him -- borders on cliché. But overall this is a thoughtful coming-of-age movie, beautifully shot, with a powerful central performance.

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