Themes of various socio-economic factors are molded into a fantastic new film in "The Last Black Man in San Francisco," the debut feature for Director Joe Talbot.
The movie is partially based on the life experiences of actor Jimmie Fails, and for that reason, he stars as himself in the picture. Jimmie is in a homeless situation, where he's living couch-to-couch, but he remains attached to the city of San Francisco, specifically a house built by his grandfather decades ago.
With the house becoming open on the market, he, with his friend Montgomery (Jonathan Majors), decides to reclaim the house and fully repair it. On top of his direct efforts at the house, the movie also explores Jimmie's relationship with his friend, his family and the city itself.
What really makes this drama work is how the filmmakers managed to balance featuring several topical issues such as homelessness, racism and how cities can change over time, while also approaching these matters in subtle ways. Very few times does the movie feel like it's exaggerating these subjects or putting them in a melodramatic light.
It's not accurate to label the film's approach as straightforward and direct, though, either. Instead, Talbot and his crew are able to present this story, and these characters, in a rather poetic way, with reserved performances and plenty of artistic flair.
There's a sort of gravitas mixed with the film's beautiful style here, ultimately creating an emotionally compelling and thought-provoking feature.
However, the film unfortunately carries a detriment when it comes to the overall story. Despite having many underlying themes and engaging human moments, "Last Black Man in San Francisco" is a bit too thin. While not always apparent, this issue does show itself from time-to-time.
Still, the movie remains strong as a whole thanks to the impressive performances given by the cast members. Fails is especially good in the lead role, giving a powerful performance as a man internally trying to adjust to a changing community and externally facing homelessness as well as uncertainty.
Majors, meanwhile, does solid work in the supporting role, as he plays more of a realist, compared to Jimmie.
While not technically a character, the city of San Francisco itself plays a sort of role in the picture. The movie is beautifully shot and the filmmakers do impressive work capturing so many sections of the city in different ways. San Francisco has its own personality in this feature, and it helps establish Jimmie's connection to it.
"The Last Black Man in San Francisco" is one of the better pictures of 2019 and it will hopefully earn some accolades this award season. While its story is a bit thin at times, the characters and themes portrayed are effective. 4.5 out of 5.
For more movie coverage, check out matthewliedkeonfilm.com for news and reviews.