A tale of friendship, racial gentrification and false illusions, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a socially apt case study on the cities plagued with crumbling culture as the white middle class buy up property, taking ownership of diverse cities for themselves.
The film is centered on Jimmie and his friend Montgomery, as they wander around San Francisco, observing the ever changing city and its quirks. Together they visit a grand house in the Fillmore district, and Jimmie proudly tells how his Grandfather built it in 1946. Whilst he grew up there, a middle class white couple now occupies the house, and Jimmie does maintenance work on the house much to the annoyance of the owners.
When the white couple leave the house empty, Jimmie visits a relator that informs him it is likely empty due to an estate issue, and that the house could be empty for years. Jimmie and Montgomery then attempt to reclaim ownership of the vacant house, even restoring the original furniture, and the joy that once resided there.
What follows is a bizarre fantasy, as they blissfully enjoy the house and all it’s nuances and quirks. But as the illusion begins to fade, the cruel reality of the city returns to plague Jimmie and Montgomery’s wonderland.
The film is laced with whimsical humour and Wes Anderson-esque visuals whilst still managing to remain a gritty and complex film, tackling issues like gentrification and toxic masculinity. A particular strength of the film is its portrayal of community and identity, the need for belonging, always conflicting with ones true identity.
Full of quirks and eccentricity, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a compelling film, bursting with gripping narrative, but never taking itself seriously enough to shift into the bore some socially aware films become. If you value wit and poetic tones in equal measure, this film is a must watch!!