Film Review – The Last Black Man in San Francisco
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
The trailer for The Last Black Man in San Francisco is reason enough to seek out this film immediately. Seeing it in its entirety on a large screen in a dark theatre is breathtaking. That statement is not an exaggeration by any means.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco revolves around Jimmie Fails (Jimmie Fails) and his friend Montgomery Allen (Jonathan Majors) who live on the outskirts of San Francisco. It is a rundown area by the water that is plagued by pollution, enough of it to be cleaned up by men in hazardous suits. Jimmie lives with Montgomery and his blind Grandpa Allen (Donald Glover) in a small house. Grandpa Allen has taken Jimmie in as he has nowhere else to go. This act alone says volumes about Montgomery and Grandpa. Jimmie works as a nurse’s aide in a retirement home, and Montgomery works as a fish butcher, but both follow along on Jimmie’s infatuation and care of the house his grandfather built in the 1940s. Jimmie’s family no longer lives there, and it is now way out of his price range, but he feels a connection to the house that is so strong that he continues to care for the house much to the owner’s chagrin. When the owner of the house becomes involved in a family dispute, she moves out and leaves it empty. Jimmie decides to occupy it with Montgomery, laying the groundwork for a squatting claim learned from his father, James (Rob Morgan).
From the opening scene, it is evident that this film will be seen as art and social commentary on gentrification. The cinematography by Adam Newport-Berra is astounding along with direction by Joe Talbot and editing perfection by David Marks. The look of the film is only enhanced by the music of Emile Mosseri. This film is truly one of the most beautiful films I have ever had the privilege to see. Sometimes if the film is lovely to look at, the story will be lacking in some way (like The Tree of Life). The story by Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot and the screenplay by Talbot and Rob Richert is compelling on its own, and the way the film is shot boosts the story of Jimmie and Montgomery.
There are memories that tie Jimmie to this house. For a young man who fell into a group home with an absent mother and father, the time of living in this grand house is the happiest Jimmie has known. Just like those memories, Jimmie will not let go of this house, especially since he knew his grandfather built it. The house calls to him, and it holds onto him in every possible way. Leaving the house daily to return to Grandpa Allen’s home and the environment surrounding it further beats the audience of what happens when gentrification hits and those who once lived in that area can no longer do so. They do not have the means, nor would they qualify for loans to attempt to own these homes that once belonged to them. The black community have been pushed out and relegated to the worst housing. What once was attainable is no longer even on the horizon.
The stellar acting skills of Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors are the cherry on top to one of the most perfect films of 2019. It is not often that I am so entranced by actors’ performances that even when they are saying very little in certain scenes, I am still in awe of their skill. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a compelling and beautiful film that needs to be seen no matter what color you are. It is hypnotic in its style and has highs and lows in its story, allowing its main character to grow and endeavor to become the man he wants to be. Like many other critics that have already seen this film, I will implore you to watch this masterpiece and hope that any nominations it has coming to it will be won easily.