The Last Black Man in San Francisco (5 stars)

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Irresistible and emotional drama from Joe Talbot that acts as a fond elegy for the titular city

'You don't get to hate it, unless you love it,' Jimmie Fails proudly declares to a newcomer who dares to find fault with his beloved San Francisco. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a fond elegy for a city that is slipping from view, like a half-remembered dream in the first light of day.

Inspired by true events in the lives of star Jimmie Fails and director Joe Talbot, this beautifully photographed, hugely impressive debut feature focuses on Jimmie's obsession with regaining ownership of the Victorian home that his grandfather built in the heart of the city. Jimmie is so in love with the house that he even keeps trying to restore it, much to the annoyance of the current owners. When a dispute over an estate leaves the house temporarily empty, Jimmie take ownership, moving in with his best friend and aspiring playwright Mont (Jonathan Majors).

This is a film in which a house is so much more than a home – it is a legacy, a symbol of continuity in a rapidly changing world and a reflection of the way the city has fallen victim to gentrification. Those who might once have lived in the neighbourhood have been pushed further to the margins.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco has the same generosity of spirit and tenderness that Barry Jenkins brought to the Oscar-winning Moonlight. The central story is precise and particular but also serves to shine light on a whole range of interconnected themes, from the bonds of friendship to the ties of family, definitions of masculinity, the class divide in modern America and how to cherish dreams and when to let them go. There is so much emotion bubbling just under the surface of every little triumph and crushing setback that the end result is irresistible.

General release from Fri 25 Oct.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

  • 5 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 2h 1min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Joe Talbot
  • Cast: Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan

Jimmie (Fails) is obsessed with regaining ownership of the Victorian home that his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. A fond elegy for a city slipping from view, shedding light on many themes from the bonds of masculinity and the class divide in modern America.

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