Direction: Joe Talbot
Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco is not merely a movie about a young black man desperately trying to react to a difficult situation - he is just another victim of the massive gentrification that affects the big cities - but also about San Francisco’s own tough experience. The plot is partly based on the true circumstances experienced by former homeless Jimmie Fails, who stars as himself alongside Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover, and Jamal Trulove. Fails and Talbot, who are childhood friends, co-wrote the script.
Even after losing the beautiful Victorian house where he grew up, Jimmie keeps going there to make small outside repairs without authorization. Naturally, this invasion makes the new owners upset. His obsession is reinforced by the fact that it was his grandfather who built that house, but now, Fillmore is a targeted district for the greedy real-estate predators. When he realizes that the owners just moved out, he and his best friend, Mont (Majors), dabble into an illicit task: recreate the home’s interior as it was before. At the same time, he tries to make acquaintance with his new neighbors as well as reconnect with his cold father, James Sr. (Rob Morgan), who sells pirated movies to keep his single-room-occupancy building, and estranged mother (played by Jimmie's real mother), with whom he fortuitously crossed paths during a bus ride.
The film’s pace is a bit lifeless and its emotional peak, which coincides with a private theater session at the house, fails to create an impact, with the scene being pushed to an overdramatic sphere. Apart from this manipulative scenario, the film is sprinkled with small details and decisive peculiarities that help to elevate the quality of its storytelling. The result is slender but still piercing, and brighter images, lovely photographed by Adam Newport-Berra, cannot conceal the depressive state this man lives in.
With minor twists, The Last Black Man in San Francisco doesn’t equal the relatable Blindspotting in vibrancy, but it should be seen for the urgency of its theme and tribute to friendship.