The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Joe Talbot's evocative The Last Black Man in San Francisco is inspired by his friend Jimmie Fails' love of his childhood home

Film Review by Adam Stafford | 25 Oct 2019
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Film title: The Last Black Man In San Francisco
Director: Joe Talbot
Starring: Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold, Mike Epps, Finn Wittrock, Danny Glover, Willie Hen
Release date: 25 Oct

Have you ever lived in a house you loved so much that you know all its contours, cracks and creaks and groans? Jimmie Fails certainly does, the house in question being a large, beautiful Victorian-style building designed and constructed by his grandfather in a now gentrified area of San Francisco. Except the house doesn't belong to Jimmie's family anymore, but by two wealthy middle-aged white metropolitan types who barely tolerate Jimmie's intrusions – his insistence on maintaining the house to his Granddad's standards by painting the windows and fussing about the flowers in the garden.

When the owners suddenly vacate the property, Jimmie and his eccentric playwright friend Mont Allen start squatting in the empty space, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the house is prime real estate and doesn't belong to them.

On the surface, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a love story between a man and his childhood home, a visual requiem to a city that has found itself under the encroaching boot of wanton capitalism and construction. But it's also a gorgeous and melancholy film that explores themes of friendship, community, black masculinity, poverty and privation.

With a roving cast of real-life SF local eccentrics, written by Fails (and based on his life), developed by Brad Pitt and impeccably directed by first-timer Joe Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is as elliptical and emotionally honest as another great American debut, David Gordon Green's George Washington (2000). The great Danny Glover puts in an Oscar-worthy performance as Mont's wistful blind Grampa, and watching Jimmie surf the crest of a huge San Fran hill on his skateboard at magic hour projected large is truly a thing of wonder and awe.

Released 25 Oct by Universal