Film Review – The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)

Title – The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)

Director – Joe Talbot (feature debut)

Cast – Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Mike Epps, Finn Wittrock, Danny Glover

Plot – San Francisco locals Jimmie (Fails) and Montgomery (Majors) set about reclaiming an old house that Jimmie’s grandfather had a hand in developing in a city-scape that is constantly evolving around them.

“You don’t get to hate it unless you love it”

Review by Eddie on 30/06/2020

As a piece of debut filmmaking and as a love letter to the unique American city of San Francisco, Joe Talbot’s dreamlike The Last Black Man in San Francisco offers much for audiences to enjoy as the up and coming director produces a beautiful ode to his every changing hometown, one that is constantly evolving around an every changing cityscape that harbors many stories, secrets and links to the nation’s past.

Winning the directing award at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and produced by Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner’s Plan B production company, Last has come from humble beginnings to become one of 2019’s most talked about sleeper hits, as Talbot’s intimate character study and city examination entails much to be said about the American landscape and its history, all around a likeably slight plot line of Jimmie Fails obsession with restoring an old house in the city built by his grandfather to its former glory.

From the moment we join the film with Fails and Jonathan Major’s loyal friend Montgomery Allen listening to an African-American preacher proclaiming in the streets against the backdrop of a fog filled San Francisco backdrop, Talbot is setting the agenda for his unique film that is brilliantly captured by DOP Adam Newport-Berra and memorably scored by Emile Mosseri, helping ensure that Last has a style and substance all of its own to be enjoyed by cinephiles enjoying its oddball delights.

There’s a tone and feel to the film that’s not dissimilar to a Spike Jonze or Michel Gonroy picture, and while the film has a whole may not end up as fully formed as the best of those directors works, it’s great to see original filmmaking alive and well in the Hollywood system, that has seen a resurgence this year and last of the smaller character driven films that have shown they can compete in a market place filled with remakes, redo’s and big budget failures.

Key to the films enjoyment outside of the vibe Talbot manages to create is the performances of Fails and Major’s who both excel in their respective roles as men lost within a city they no longer fully understand.

Fails in particular is awards worthy as his namesake, a man driven close to insanity by an insatiable quest to reclaim a piece of his and his cities history, it’s a fully formed performance by the up and coming star who shines in a cast that also features neat small-scale turns by the likes of Danny Glover as Allen’s elderly relative and Mike Epps as a local street hood Bobby.

It’s a shame the film loses some of its energy and verve in a more middling middle section but bookended by a fantastic opening act and a generally moving finale, Last is a strong contributor to a top class collection of independent films that are making their marks at the end of year awards seasons.

Final Say –

An original piece of American filmmaking, The Last Black Man in San Francisco carves out a unique identity for itself as it lovingly pays tribute to the city in which it is based and puts director Joe Talbot’s name up as one of the up and coming directors to keep a very close eye on.

3 ½ skateboard rides out of 5   

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