Director Joe Talbot’s debut feature is an ode to the city of San Francisco, rooted in the real-life experiences of his childhood best friend, Jimmie Fails. Though Fails is a non-actor, no one else could give a more genuine and heartfelt performance than he could—so Talbot cast him in the lead role.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco tells a story of the city through the eyes of a fictionalized version of Jimmie, who is obsessed by the idea of reclaiming the Victorian house in Fillmore that his grandfather built. This house is where he grew up and was the last real home he had before his family broke apart.
Jimmie spends most of his time hanging out with his best friend, aspiring playwright Montgomery (Jonathan Majors), haunting the neighbourhoods they knew as children and watching old black-and-white movies at the small house they share with Montgomery’s nearly-blind grandfather (Danny Glover, The Old Man and the Gun).
Jimmie also visits and fixes up the house his grandfather built to keep it from falling into disrepair, much to the annoyance of its current owners. Unexpectedly, the house is one day left empty and an estate dispute ensues. Jimmie and Montgomery seize the opportunity to move in and live out a make-believe home life—but their dream cannot last forever.
This is a story about transformation, friendship, resilience and what it means to belong to a community. And though the film is not directly about gentrification, that is so much a part of the day-to-day reality of San Franciscans that the force of it cannot be ignored.
“It’s not a movie for admiring in freeze frame; it’s the kind you fall into with your whole heart and emerge from feeling, for two hours at least, what it is to fully be transported by the magic of film.” (Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly)
“Jimmie’s story is a slow ballad, a tragic ode, a dirty limerick, a wistful lament and a heartbreaking elegy. It’s a tribute to the notion of home that we all carry. This is one of the year’s best films.” (Odie Henderson, RogerEbert.com)
“Aside from exploring the housing crisis benefiting developers and startups, Last Black Man hones in on male friendship from the standpoint of two yound guys whose fraternal bond surpasses any need for the posturing associated with toxic masculinity.” (Carlos Aguilar, TheWrap)