The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Critics Consensus

An affecting story powerfully told, The Last Black Man in San Francisco immediately establishes director Joe Talbot as a filmmaker to watch.

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 168

84%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 505
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Movie Info

Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Joined on his quest by his best friend Mont, Jimmie searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.

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Critic Reviews for The Last Black Man in San Francisco

All Critics (168) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (157) | Rotten (11)

  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a poetic and picturesque ode to the title city, to friendship and to the universal urge to find a place to call home.

    Jul 8, 2019 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Even though Talbot opts for a quasi-humorous approach to the subject matter, the comedic edge can't hide an underlying sadness about what this all means.

    Jul 8, 2019 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • There is something irrepressibly original and exciting in the collaboration that results between Talbot, Fails and co-writer Rob Richert - a cinematic vision that feels as fresh as it does necessary.

    Jul 4, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" is poignant filmmaking with an invigorating spirit.

    Jun 21, 2019 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • The acting by the two principals is impeccable, their portrait of male friendship is deeply felt.

    Jun 18, 2019 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • It sometimes feels as if Talbot is overplaying his hand-his use of slow-motion, for instance, feels needlessly arty-but one can't deny the seriousness of his concerns or his emotional investment in the material.

    Jun 14, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Last Black Man in San Francisco

  • Aug 14, 2019
    I've been thinking about calling A24 one of the best studios making films today, but it really hit me while watching The Last Black Man in San Francisco. This is a studio that very carefully picks their projects and more often than not, finds great material to release. I now believe they are not just one of the best, but the absolute best of the best, especially when looking at the films released by studios throughout this decade alone. This character study is one of the best films you will see this year. Jimmie (Jimmie Fails), finding it hard to cope with the fact that the house his grandfather built may be taken away from him, leaving him with nothing, takes it upon himself to find a way to hold onto it. That's the core premise of the movie and with a strong friendship between Jimmie and Montgomery as the backbone of the dramatic aspects, this is a film that places its main character front and center. With a well fleshed out character that has me engaged from start to finish, you've already won me over, but there is so much more to love and admire here.  Adam Newport-Berra is at the helm as the film's cinematographer and I truly believe this has set the standard for the year. I would be absolutely shocked if he doesn't receive a nomination for his work in the coming months. On top of that, being director Joe talbot's first feature film to be released, it goes without saying that he is a filmmaker that's here to stay and I am giving an early prediction that, if not this year, there will be an awards season in the coming years that consistently rave about something he has done. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is littered with talent from top to bottom. This movie would be a technical achievement in independent cinema regardless of the material being shown on-screen, but the fact that these technical aspects are buoyed by a central performance that truly moved me was another level of special. Actor Jimmie Fails plays a character by the exact same name and there may be personal influences that helped his performance here, but a great performance is a great performance nonetheless and he delivers one of the best I've seen all year so far. In the end, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a film that takes its time in setting up the scenarios at hand, dives deep, and eventually delivers a very touching conclusion that had me totally invested. With superb direction, camerawork that deserves many awards, a score that soothes the mind as you're watching, and a core performance that elevates the already great material, this is a film that surely can't be missed. This is one of the very best movies I've seen all year.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Jun 09, 2019
    A LITTLE SPIKE - My Review of THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (4 Stars) So many people in the world have felt it. Things aren't the same as in the past. We can't afford to live in our dream locations anymore, if we were ever even able to in the first place. We can't go home again. We've lost touch with what makes us feel good, feel whole, feel alive. In a city such as San Francisco, the quaint bohemia has given way to unaffordable housing, a rise in homelessness, and your average Joe fleeing out of necessity. We can't help but miss the way things used to be, and out of this ruefulness and despair comes a remarkable new film called The Last Black Man In San Francisco. It's the directorial debut of Joe Talbot, who co-wrote the screenplay with Rob Richert, based on a story by Talbot's lifelong friend, Jimmie Fails, who also stars. On the surface we follow a man who can't seem to give up his childhood home, which he was forced to leave many years prior, but it's how the story gets told that sets it apart. Talbot uses a highly stylized, theatrical presentation, aided greatly by his gifted cinematographer, Adam Newport-Berra, which feels like a cross between the magical realism of Do The Right Thing-era Spike Lee and many of Spike Jonze's music videos. We feel it right in the opening moments as we follow a young girl skipping along the street only to encounter a man in a HazMat suit preparing to face the poisonous waters in the San Francisco Bay behind them. Moving past them, the camera lands on a black street preacher who warns his audience that his people are systematically being killed off. His listeners include Jimmie and his best friend Mont (a fantastic Jonathan Majors last seen in Captive State). Tired of listening to the preacher and no longer willing to wait for a bus, they take off together on Jimmie's skateboard to the city. This sequence really sets the tone for the film with its majestic shots of the pair gliding through the streets. It brings us back to that woozy feeling we get when we're traversing a dream environment. They land on a Victorian house, Jimmie's aforementioned former home. While Mont sketches, Jimmy sneaks through the gate and paints the window sills of this neglected property. One small problem…a couple lives there and have grown tired of Jimmy's intrusions, despite his good intentions. A chance occurrence allows Jimmy and Mont to move out of the tiny room they've been living in with Mont's blind father (Danny Glover) and into his old house. Although basically squatters, these friends build a life together which we know in our guts cannot last. It would have been so easy to tell this story as a gritty, handheld indie, but it would have lost its depth of feeling. Fails exudes a gentle kindness and an intense focus on preserving the history of a house he says his grandfather built by hand. The lyricism in his beautiful performance and in the wonderful framing would have been lost with an artless shaky cam approach. Emile Mosseri's lush, emotional score also underscores the fairy tale aspects of this film. The soundtrack also includes some unexpected songs, including a lovely version of the classic "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" by Mike Marshall. This formalized style of filmmaking may not appeal to everyone, but I truly felt something. Yes, we have a very current subject matter at play, but it's the depth of feeling and the assured directing which elevates it. Many may find it sluggish, but I kept focusing on the heart in Fail's approach. There's a fantastic scene in which a group of tourists on Segways pulls up to the house and hear of its history. Jimmy, from a balcony, gives an impassioned speech about his grandfather, and in this moment, we feel the gravity and the beauty of history. Veteran actor Rob Morgan gives a low-key yet commanding performance as Jimmy's estranged, judgmental father. I also loved seeing Tichina Arnold, who memorably played Crystal, one of the three members of the Greek Chorus in Little Shop Of Horrors, as Jimmie's aunt. She represents an earthy, funny and much-needed lifeline to our protagonist. This film has a Greek Chorus of its own, a gang of Jimmy and Mont's neighbors who taunt them with homophobic slurs and a resentment that the pair haven't stuck with their old friends. We're also treated to an ominous performance by Finn Wittrock as a cutthroat real estate agent who doesn't exactly love that the men have set up house on a valuable property. It all adds up to paint a picture of San Francisco we rarely get to see. We feel the loss of a city that once seemed like it belonged to a utopian society give way to a rampant, heartless consumerism. The film stumbles a bit in its last act, when people gather to watch a play. It's here where its themes get shouted in an overstated, obvious way. Secrets and lies get exposed as everything falls apart. It came across as a very bad play that I didn't believe any audience would sit still for, and I don't think that was the intention. It's a minor misstep as Talbot and company stick the landing with a haunting, indelible ending. Sure, The Last Black Man In San Francisco has its pretensions, but it has so much heart, skill, and importance, I allowed myself to get swept up in it just the same.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer

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