Jimmie Fails (Jimmie Fails) and his best friend Mont (Jonathan Majors) start squatting in Jimmie’s childhood home, gentrified out of affordability by an influx of Google buses. Or tax dodgems as I call them.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco shares with its A24 stablemate The Farewell an offbeat blend of subtle humour, autobiographical drama and displaced characters, but like the house at its centre it stands alone; a unique picture that eschews convention as thoroughly as the character of Mont (impeccably played by Majors), whose touching friendship with Fails (who also co-writes based on his own life) forms the heart of the film.
First-time director Joe Talbot affectionately captures San Francisco without romanticising the city, mindful of colour and symmetry almost like a political version of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson. His approach is gentle on the surface but impassioned underneath, balancing melancholy, likability and provocation with an equilibrium to rival the Segway-riding tourists who gawp at the black people in a neighbourhood dominated by tech startups.
These timely political themes and strong sense of place make the movie both geographically specific and universally applicable; a finely layered story about the imposition of modern society on black history and identity, whose sensitive characters and refreshing portrayal of black masculinity ensure that The Last Black Man won’t be the first black film snubbed by the Academy.