February 14, 2020

‘The Last Tree’, a Clash of Ideas?

Film Review by Amarachukwu Iwuala







The erroneous belief, especially in this part of the world, that discipline is unenforceable when parents forge close relationships with their children is thoroughly scrutinized in Shola Amoo’s debut feature film, about a Nigerian immigrant and her young son.

Femi reluctantly leaves Mary, his humane foster mother, in Lincolnshire and joins his biological mum, Yinka, in London.  The difference in the parenting styles of both women makes Femi a permanently angry child and, eventually, a teenage rebel and gangster.  Will he hit his ball into a bunker or can he retrace his steps before he becomes irredeemable?

The biological mum believes that dishing out instructions and commands is the best way to raise a child.  How does anyone uproot a child from someone (and an environment) he is accustomed to and makes no conscious effort to understand the child’s personality and the lifestyle that worked for him and his former guardian, granted that there were no unsavoury reports from that end?

Yinka is not concerned that her son is now practically mute in a home where it should be taken for granted that he will bloom.  Th viewer, of course, remembers that the boy’s stay in Mary’s house was tranquil.  Forcing foods that a child detests down his or her throat as well as showing aggression when the child has a contrary view may not look like serious matters, yet they are capable of producing a maladjusted teenager like Femi.

The Last Tree and Farming (a 2018 movie by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) are two contemporary films that have a lot in common and it raises the question: did the films emanate from film-makers who had similar ideas, which they developed around the same period or are they products of a practice that is prevalent in Nollywood, where film-makers duplicate other people’s works either after the films have been released or whilst they are still in production?

 In defense of the observation that they copy one another’s storylines, some Nollywood film-makers employ the term, ‘clash of ideas,’ implying that it may well be coincidental that the concerned film-makers conceived and developed their ideas whilst working independently.

An analysis of Farming and The Last Tree indicates that apart from the fact that both film-makers are British-Nigerians, the protagonists in the films are young lads raised in foster homes with adoptive mothers who are Caucasians.  Enitan (Farming) and Femi (The Last Tree) embrace truancy whilst in secondary school.  Enitan’s female teacher and Femi’s male teacher go the extra mile in their bid to help each boy overcome delinquency. 

And yet both films also have striking differences.  The foster mum in the former is an abusive young woman who lives with her husband while in the latter, Femi lives alone with his elderly and doting foster mother. 

Each lad visits Nigeria for different reasons and under unrelated circumstances.  The outcome Femi’s visit ultimately redirects The Last Tree such that one can claim with certitude that Nollywood’s ‘copycopy’ is, thankfully, not at play between this film and Farming

The thrust of The Last Tree’s plot is a commentary on effective parenting, x-raying the poor relationship between a mother and her biological son plus its consequences, vis-à-vis the fact that the same boy was well-behaved whilst living with his foster mum.

The Last Tree is spare. There are no extraneous details in the film that constitute a drag and much of the communication is non-verbal, which makes the film a visual delight. The film-maker understands that dialogue should be the last resort in this art.  Bravo.






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