August 26, 2019  (Web Review)

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Lionsgate, 121 min., R, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $24.99, Aug. 27

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

This is Jimmie Fails’s deeply personal story about reclaiming the $4 million Victorian house he believes that his African-American grandfather built in 1946 in the Fillmore district near the Golden Gate in San Francisco. Riding around on his skateboard, Jimmie tells everyone that since his grandfather built the distinctive multi-story structure after returning from WWII, it should rightfully be his. Currently homeless, Jimmie stays with his buddy Montgomery Allen (Jonathan Majors) in his blind grandfather’s (Danny Glover) house. Once a week, he and Mont, who is a gifted artist/playwright, visit the now-rundown mansion to paint the red exterior trim, despite protests from the current occupants. It’s obvious that even though he hasn’t lived there for many years, Jimmie’s identity is intricately tied to this particular place by family lore. When the elderly owner dies, Jimmie and Mont move in, establishing their own notion of “squatters” rights. Totally obsessed, defiant Jimmie convinces Mont that he must claim his family legacy in the “Harlem of the West,” providing a sense of continuity that’s been lost through gentrification, although eventually fact will overwhelm fiction. Directed by Joe Talbot, this poetic and subtly poignant film dreamily explores the interlaced themes of fractured families, lost roots, the bonds of friendship, and the socioeconomic concept of “home.” Recommended. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by writer-director Joe Talbot, and an “Ode to the City” behind-the-scenes featurette (11 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release is a bonus digital copy of the film. Bottom line: a solid extras package for a timely drama.] (S. Granger)