Movie Review: The Last Black Man in San Francisco

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a film about Jimmie and Montgomery, two young men who travel into San Francisco to fix up a house that used to belong to Jimmie's grandfather. When the current owners leave, Jimmie embarks on a journey to get custody of the house and reclaim his family history. The film stars Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, and Finn Wittrock. The film's story is by Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot, it's written by Joe Talbot and Rob Richert, and directed by Joe Talbot.

There is a fantastic world built inside The Last Black Man in San Francisco. It's vibrant and lush, it's characters are unique and memorable. It's story, the story of cities built on the backs of the working class, that the working class can no longer afford to live in, is one of a lost ideal. Within this world there are found families and Greek choruses of masculinity, there are oddities and things you could never expect.

Within this world there's Jimmie, the historian, telling people of his grandfather's house, his family's legacy and restoring the property to its former glory. He clings to this house, the only one that's ever had a true permanence, a legacy, a heritage for him. His history of poverty and neglect is written all over his face, but this home, this building, is something he can make beautiful, something he could be proud of. It becomes the outward manifestation of his wish to change his circumstances, to be where he loves most in the world.

It isn't as if the house is about rebuilding his family, though. Jimmie's estranged father still finds a hustle or two to keep him busy, yet can't find compassion in what his son is doing because it reminds him where he was and what a loser he's become. Jimmie's mother is absent in every possible way from her son's life. The two of them meet for the first time in years when she gets on the same bus and gives Jimmie the brush off. Jimmie's aunt has found happiness outside the city and will never look back. This house is about Jimmie reclaiming a status and building his found family around it.

The Greek tragedy elements and how Montgomery is attempting to direct life like one would a play is a brilliant touch as well. He intercedes in conversations, he takes careful notes and sketches. I love the way Jonathan Majors is able to portray Montgomery as the different aspects of his personality. So much of the film is about a sense of truth in oneself and while Montgomery is never false, he's also a different truth to every person in his life.

There are so many great scenes in this film, but when Montgomery stages his play is the best. He's got this culmination of everything he's observed as well as the feelings he's had a hard time making known. Montgomery plays all the parts save the ones he asks from his audience. He builds and builds to something until he finally comes to Jimmie, he forces Jimmie to accept the truth. It's a riveting scene because we've heard Montgomery rehearsing throughout and trying to find the voice of his characters, but when he lets loose it's truly incredible and ultimately leads to Jimmie's catharsis.

This film, like it's characters is not one thing. It's full of depth, honesty, fantasy, belief, and parts that unite into a whole being. I didn't write much about the richness of the pallet or of the fantastical camera work, the beautiful editing, or the soaring score, but that's only because one could write a book about all of it. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a film that is rich and beautiful and will never allow you to guess what's coming next. It'll only allow you to know what it's always known when you are ready to know it. It's the film we dream about when we dare to utter the word perfect. It's one that demands and deserves to be seen by everyone. It's one I hope you seek out and that touches you like it did me.

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