The Last Black Man in San Francisco

A house is not a home

As the rise of Silicon Valley propelled San Francisco to now rank among the world’s most expensive, the inevitable gentrification (hateful word) and skyrocketing real estate prices have marginalized some long-term residents. 

This is the impressive feature-film debut of fifth-generation San Franciscan Joe Talbot, who has based his story on that of longtime friend and writing collaborator Jimmie Fails, who plays himself. 

Jimmie is obsessed with reclaiming the lovely Victorian home his grandfather built just after WWII but which is now worth north of four million dollars. When the latest owners move out due to a looming estate battle, Jimmie and his pal Mont (an excellent Jonathan Majors), an aspiring artist and playwright, move in and become squatters. 

One could be forgiven, given the title and subject matter, for expecting some indignant, self-righteous, quasi-documentary screed. Instead, it’s a visually stunning, immersive, even magical tone poem to identity, loss, and reconciling the present with the past. It’s a work of art, with aesthetic surprises around every charming corner. It’s also a moving take on male friendship without all the toxic masculinity. Nice classical/jazz/pop score, too.

This is a true original, and difficult to describe, except to call it a must-see. (121 min)