In The Last Black Man In San Francisco, first-time director and producer Joe Talbot offers a visually stunning and beautifully depicted ode to male friendship in a film which doubles up as a timely commentary on race and gentrification in post-race America. Based on a story by Talbot and long time friend Jimmie Fails, the film also happens to be based on Fails’ own experiences of growing up in San Francisco as a young black man.
Jimmie Fails (Fails playing himself) is a young man living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He spends his days wandering around town with his best friend and confident Mont Allen (Jonathan Majors) who he also lives with, along with Mont’s grandfather (Danny Glover).
Still yearning for his childhood home, a classic Victorian house in the city’s Fillmore District which now belongs to a middle class white couple, Jimmie has been visiting the house every week and slowly working to restore it to its former glory without its owners’ permission. But when the house is once again left unoccupied, both Jimmie and Mont decide to move in and claim it as their own in honour of Jimmie’s grandfather who is said to have built it with his own hands in 1946.
The Last Black Man In San Francisco is first and foremost a devastating love story between a young and the city he no longer recognises. It is also a story of friendship and platonic love between two young black men who care deeply for each other. And although Mont often appears to be harbouring more than just platonic feelings for his best friend, these feelings are only ever alluded to and never quite come to fruition.
Talbot and Fails offer an enchanting, entrancing and utterly mesmerising film which not only speaks from the heart but which also invites you to join in on the enthusiasm the two young men have for their city of birth. Burning with year upon layer of intricate magical realist iconography through out, the film manages to be both moving and thought-provoking without ever overstepping the marking into “try hard” territory.
Elevated by a gorgeously mournful and unreservedly uplifting score courtesy of Emile Mosseri, The Last Black Man In San Francisco offers a devastatingly beautiful story which is more than reminiscent of Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight in its representation of friendship and love between two friends who would be lost without each other another.
Playing a fictional version of himself, Jimmie Fails impresses greatly throughout as he offers a fantastically understated turn as man fighting for his right to exist in a world that no longer has a place for him.
Joe Talbot has given us a film which comes without any airs or graces, instead we get to spend almost two hours with two hugely likeable characters whom we cannot help but root for an fall madly in love with. The Last Black Man In San Francisco is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best films you”ll see in 2019.