Review: The Last Black Man in San Francisco

17th August 2019 Off By Ewan Gleadow


I sometimes miss the home I used to live in, as well as experiencing the nostalgic desire to reclaim the days of my childhood. But trying to reclaim the house by painting the window panes isn’t what I’d do to recall those days, and The Last Black Man in San Fransisco has such a peculiar aversion to property ownership that its plot is constricted as being nothing more than an urge to reclaim nostalgia. Directed by Joe Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco follows the story of Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and friend Montgomery (Jonathan Majors) as they attempt to reclaim a house that Fails’ grandfather built.

Now I know absolutely nothing about San Francisco, only that it resides in the United States, but I never expected the alienation that occurs from the characters within the film. Blindspotting and The Florida Project are two films I had no trouble engaging and connecting with, even though they are both sprouted from extremely different backgrounds and locations to mine. So why I struggled to engage with the characters and themes in The Last Black Man in San Francisco is beyond perplexing, and perhaps the reason is that the film itself struggles to engage with its own themes, too.

The film is desperate to delve into the political infrastructure of modern-day San Francisco, but never quite has the courage to approach it in a straightforward manner. The Last Black Man suffers greatly from its own aversion to a subject it desperately wants and needs to address. At the very forefront of the film is a power struggle between a black man looking to reclaim the home he grew up in, but has the law, racists and contracts preventing him from doing so. At least that’s what I assume is happening, the movie doesn’t really make it all that clear as to what is going on.

At least there are some decent enough performances throughout. You’d be hard pressed not to enjoy the involvement of both Mike Epps and Danny Glover, two hardened actors that have appeared in their handful of great movies. Our leading duo play well too, with Fails and Majors giving consistently steady performances throughout the movie. Given the positives, it is disappointing that the film completely fails to do anything interesting with these performances. Overall, political correctness and fear ultimately prevents The Last Black Man in San Fransisco from reaching its potential.