Luke McWilliams gives his review of the 2019 drama, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, starring Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors.
In San Francisco, Jimmie Fails and his best friend Montgomery Allen (Jonathan Majors) watch a local protester rallying against yet another construction in their city. The two share a skateboard as they ride to a beautiful old Victorian house in the gentrified Fillmore district, where Fails starts to take care of the garden, which (once again) infuriates the current owners.
Writer, producer and director, Joe Talbot, grew up with lead, Fails, in San Francisco, where, as teenagers, the duo first came up with the idea of making the movie. Talbot ‘cold-emailed’ director Barry Jenkins for advice for his feature film debut, with the result being an artful work akin to Jenkins’ Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk: beautifully composed and lit shots that linger against a sumptuous score.
Disenfranchised and displaced, Fails is called to his old family home and is dedicated to its upkeep, regardless of who’s inhabiting it. Believing that his grandfather built the house in the 1940s, Fails does not hesitate to move in once the opportunity presents itself. African American comedian Tiffany Haddish explains in documentary Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea, that it is a privilege white Americans know where their roots lie. Like Jack Black and Mos Def in Be Kind, Rewind, Fails fights tooth and nail to lay claim to his family’s legacy to lay roots of his own, and therefore guarantee his future in the city he loves.
Verdict: A beautiful, well-intentioned movie, whose earnestness sometimes borders on comedy. A very strong debut, however. 3 stars.
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