The Last Black Man in San Francisco ★★★★★

“People aren’t one thing.”

There’s a film that comes along every once in a great long while that just makes you rethink everything, not the least of which being your perspective on life and your perspective on film. After I finished watching the credits, I just sat with my mouth agape, tears streaming down my face. As soon as I went to bed, I put on the soundtrack and cried some more as soon as the opening notes were heard. Joe Talbot, Jimmie Fails, and Jonathan Majors, along with everyone else who worked on this masterpiece, have crafted what is easily the greatest film of the year, and quite simply one of the best I’ve ever seen. 

This was my most anticipated film of 2019, and I’m happy to report that it’s easily the most impactful one I’ve experienced in years. Every frame, every sound, every line of dialogue feels more authentic than almost anything I’ve seen all year. It’s thought-provoking and emotionally devastating on every level. Fuck, I’m tearing up just writing this. This is what art looks like. Creators who care about the story they’re telling, who imbue their characters with lived-in experience that they themselves have gone through. The amount of passion, heart, and love put into this film is beautiful. The play scene stands to be the best scene of the year for me. 

Jimmie is such a thoughtful and heartbreaking character, and knowing that the story was inspired by Fails’ own life, I just broke down. Jimmie is a character that believes in something for so long, and even though he knows deep inside that it’s all a facade, it’s a truly gutting feeling to ask whether believing in something that isn’t real is better than believing in nothing at all. I think it is. Holding onto something is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. It reminds us where we came from and where we’re going. The house did the same for Jimmie, and that’s why it’s so heart-wrenching to see it be stripped away, for...money. Gentrification is a sickening thing, a monster that only serves as a way for the rich to get richer and the culture to gradually be torn apart. People need to understand why it’s such a problem and that’s why this film is exactly the one we need right now. Everybody thinks today’s culture is just kids on iPhones. It’s not. There’s so much more to our country than we choose to see. 

The film also tackles issues like racial identity and masculinity, which are just as prevalent and equally as beautifully conveyed. There have been a variety of films in the past that have tackled issues in as wide a scope as this has, but I don’t think I’ve been as emotionally affected by them as much as I was here (though Blindspotting does come close). This is just a jaw-droppingly gorgeous, exultant, emotional rollercoaster of ideas, themes, characters, sights, sounds, and moments. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the cinematography might be the best I’ve ever seen. Every single shot deserves to be hung in a museum for all to see. 

What I love most about this film is how it presents its message. It doesn’t scream at the viewer, demanding for them to listen. It instead speaks to them in a quiet, empathetic, and moving manner that makes them feel like they’re part of this world, as they should. I want to spend 50,000 more hours with Jimmie and Mont, examining their world with them. Please, I beg of you. Watch this film. I can say already that it has changed my life. 

“We built these ships. Dredged these canals. In the San Francisco they never knew existed.”

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