The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) Poster

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Well-meaning but I would have loved a re-write
eileen202030 June 2019
By now folks know the story, or at least the premise. Who isn't against the brutality of the Bay Area tech sector, and its destruction via cash and more cash of the zeitgeist of San Francisco? The forcing out via arson and eviction of poor renters, ditto. Horrendous. But this is a quiet buddy movie, evidently, with a Victorian house as the object of their ... affection? Obsession? There are several women in it, bit parts of no importance. Why? It's all about the guys. Jimmie, the lead, believes -- implausibly to the point of absurdity -- that his grandfather built the house in 1946. He wants to own the house. It means everything to him. This conceit becomes an important part of the story. The music is beautiful, the acting is perfect, the cinematography is gorgeous, but this viewer wanted so much more.
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7/10
Well-Made, Thoughtful Yet Ever-So-Slightly Empty Drama
bastille-852-73154715 June 2019
This independent drama on the effects of gentrification in San Francisco played to strong reviews at Sundance. It's also distributed by A24, and their films are generally very high-quality. Judging from its trailer, the film looked to be a mix of understatedly beautiful aesthetics (including some extraordinary cinematography of the Bay Area,) searing character drama, and social commentary. The film is generally well-made, and some aspects of it are undeniably impressive for a directorial debut.

The plot follows a man named Jimmie, whose grandfather built a house in San Francisco on land he purchased during World War II. Today, Jimmie wishes to live in this spacious Victorian house, but its market value has skyrocketed due to gentrification of the neighborhood (and nearby neighborhoods) near where it is located. He begins to develop a scheme with his best friend to move into the house. The film's cinematography is exceptional, and manages to juxtapose both realism and romanticism in terms of how it depicts both the ideals and the realities of San Francisco residents today. Some of the film's shots may remind viewers of Spike Lee's early films, but the film's aesthetic always feels wholly original at the end of the day. The film also uses a variety of other visual and narrative tricks, such as a tableaux vivant-style scene, to help convey the points it is trying to make on how gentrification is affecting relationships between people in urban areas today, much less exacerbating social inequality. The film's simple score is beautiful and almost haunting at times in terms of its elegance and emotional power. The performances in the film are generally strong, as the almost laid-back method acting of the two leads is thoughtful and impactful in its sheer simplicity.

Despite the film's clear achievements on a technical and narrative level that intersects strong performances with aesthetics, "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" isn't perfect. The film doesn't have too many key plot points, which would normally be okay given the film's understated tone. However, the film does feel rather drawn-out in that the narrative doesn't always impact even scenes in which the director is trying to promote substance over style. The narrative's climax is also a bit disappointing. It lacks a clear transition both preceding it and after it, and doesn't quite pack the impact on a viewer in which a film's climax should. That said, the ending is generally satisfying. Also, the film's social commentary is a bit of a mixed bag in that it shows the ways in which gentrification has affected San Francisco--yet it manages to reduce supporting characters both benefitting from and greatly harmed by gentrification to almost caricatures. As a result, the film's messaging on the perils of gentrification in cities comes up just a little short, and clearly falls below the effectiveness of social commentary in films like "Get Out." That said, there's definitely plenty to like about this indie drama. Generally recommended. 7/10
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1/10
Wanted To Like This More Than I Did
This movie succeeds thematically, but ultimately fails dramatically and emotionally. The "point" of this film is a very important one, the cast is wonderful, the cinematography has flair, and the score is phenomenal. There's a lot to like here, but the entire film feels low energy, cold, and distant. I could often tell what the director wanted me to feel, but I rarely felt it. It's occasionally on the nose and a bit young in it's writing. This one definitely felt like a film by a fairly inexperienced filmmaker. I'm a huge supporter of A24 films and I find that they put out truly interesting and innovative work. I will say that this is a risky film about a very important topic and I thank A24 for putting forward.

I'm going to rewatch it when it comes out on streaming and maybe I'll feel different them. As of right now, however, I think this is an extremely unfocused film and somewhat of a long watch.
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10/10
Brilliant
srdas-935857 June 2019
This movie began as a joke between friends...then those friends: Director Joe Talbot and lead actor Jimmie Fails worked on this project unofficially for 10 years. Each scene is thoroughly orchestrated, nothing is rushed in this film. Nuanced themes are pervasive throughout this visually beautiful movie. I do not believe a movie based in Hollywood could acheive the things this movie has. It is a masterful portait of delusions, the transitory nature of ownership, gentrification, friendship, growth, masculinity, the growing pains of the life, the City as a whole and much more. I give it 10 stars for the fact that I do not believe there was any room for improvement. A new classic.
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10/10
Majors is AWSOME.
hrolandwhite18 February 2019
This movie may be the best " San Francisco" movie made. Jonathan Majors puts on a show, next to Jimmie Fails playing himself. The two of them are truly entertaining for the entire move. Must see if you like movies.
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10/10
SPECTACULAR MASTERPIECE
earthgirl-5421418 June 2019
Wow. I had high hopes for this movie when I saw the trailer, and for once in my life, my expectations were exceeded. I cannot stress enough how beautiful this film is. Try to watch it in theatres if you get the chance because the cinematography is breathtaking. The film created such a dreamy atmoshpere while simultaneously mainting a harsh realism about life in San Francisco. Meanwhile, numerous human themes are explored, including masculinity, racial stereotypes, friendship, gentrification, class, etc. I also commend both Jonathan Majors and Jimmie Smalls (hopefully I spelled correctly) on amazing performances. Smalls' displays more subtle emotion, while Majors shocks you with an Oscar-worthy performance that packs so much emotion. I just wanted to cry the entire time. Sometimes because of the sheer beauty of what was on screen. Everything is enhanced by the brilliant score. I'm done raving, but please do yourself a favor and go watch this movie.
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2/10
People were getting up and leaving
refbumrulz3 July 2019
This movie rambled on and didn't connect. It was nonsensical. I've always been a Danny Glover fan. His character was out of place in a very empty drama. I stayed for the entire movie but, I did feel like others who go up and left.
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10/10
Much More Than a Title
peterandrewalbert9 June 2019
The trailer for this movie (which is in itself a wonder) set up some expectations for me, and they were met: it's a melancholy film about a black man feeling pushed away from the city he loves. But the movie is so much something more that I'm still reflecting on it three days after viewing. The film is gentle and expansive, anything but divisive or self-pitying: a celebration of the unique, oddball, all-embracing quirkiness that San Francisco inspires and cultivates. It's just as much about a friendship between black men that endures because of San Francisco's peculiarly protective cover. I came away moved by the friendship story - the kind of friendship that the film itself suggests changes lives and can survive gentrification.

The trailer promises visual beauty and the film delivers, coming as close as a movie can to diagramming the cool, foggy spell San Francisco can cast - but the images on the screen are there to both break a heart and to inspire hope.

And man, are these images beautiful! This movie is a natural addition to the ranks of "Vertigo," "Bullitt," "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "Tales of the City" - movies that lean on SF as more than a backdrop, but indeed as a co-star. It all works to underscore why the hero (Jimmie Fails, playing himself) is so compulsively distracted by, even focused on, his unsettled business with his hometown. Set to a dreamy score by Emile Mosseri and Michael Marshall's cover of "If You're Going to San Francisco," there are moments in the movie that well up and stir; that are flat out unforgettable.
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9/10
Does what an indie film is supposed to do
studiocity19499 June 2019
This one strikes two big nerves: the crisis of gentrification and displacement happening in San Francisco and other cities across the country; and the general absence in most movies of nuanced presentations of Black masculinity. "The Last Black Man In San Francisco" scores in both cases. It's a beautiful, moving portrait of friendship and a gut-wrenching story of loss. It does what indie films are supposed to do: make us see things differently. The score is gorgeous. The acting, by pros and amateurs, is excellent. (Jonathan Majors is a standout. And check our Rob Morgan's scene.) Above all the movie is different. Unlike just about anything you've ever seen. Quirky, pensive, angry, melancholic. And despite it's sadness, somehow hopeful. Director Joe Talbot and lead actor Jimmie Fails deliver!
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Meh
maclock6 August 2019
I wanted to like this more than I did. While there are some stand-out performances, The Last Black Man in San Francisco isn't all that memorable. You could give it a pass without missing out on anything.
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2/10
Something is fishy?
bbriles15 July 2019
This was one of the worst movies I have seen this year and I have seen a lot. Who is rating these movies? Suddenly it seems as if the ratings are bologna. Sundance movies are often rated high because they have the "Sundance" publicity attached, but they often choose movies that are politically correct and not because the movie is actually good, in my opinion. Acting was good, although the characters boring. Did you ever think about throwing a little humor in with such a dialogue-driven (yelling) movie? Writing, editing, and directing very bad. They need to cut about an hour and 40 minutes and make it a, possibly, tolerable short.
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3/10
Boring
ekammin-228 July 2019
I was very disappointed in the movie. It got such great reviews, so I chose to see this over other good sounding films. I guess there's some truth toit, but many things that happen do not seem believable. It's all talking and not very good acting. Much of the dialogue is difficult to understand, and it doesn't need a big screen. Wait until it comes out on DVD.
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8/10
An extraordinary poignant and beautiful film
regonzalez-205107 June 2019
This movie is beautifully made, shot and acted. There's a good deal of comedy here. The City is a character and breathes in a way not shown before on film. It's the small places shown, the neighborhoods that don't make it into other movies, the light and the cold. The sense of longing is strong in this film. The characters, all of whom are a bit off, long for a stability that isn't there, but that they all hope for and work towards. This is a movie about people who are being crushed in a variety of ways by the workings of capitalism and keep struggling forward. It's not a political movie or an obnoxious "message" movie. Nothing to hit you over the head. It just shows you folks. This is a love letter to a city that ain't there anymore. A place where I grew up but am a stranger. Where the homes I grew up and played baseball in the streets in front of, no one let's kids play in the street in front of anymore. The kids like the housed are too expensive.
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2/10
You Can't Hate San Francisco
view_and_review25 June 2019
To be perfectly honest, I only watched the movie because of the title. Being from San Francisco myself I was more than a little intrigued. After watching it, It seems like the title was the only good thing about this movie-if you can consider the title good.

Obviously, the movie takes place in San Francisco. I don't want to attempt to say what it was about because I'm sure I'll be wrong. Rather, I'll say what I think it was about.

The two main characters were Jimmie Fails playing Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors playing Montgomery Allen. I recognized Jonathan Majors from a movie earlier this year titled Captive State. They were two odd friends. I say odd because I couldn't understand them. I didn't understand their actions, their emotions, their motivations, nothing. Jimmie was grim, deadpanned guy obsessed with an old Victorian home that he used to live in on Golden Gate. Even though it was occupied he would go there and touch up the paint and other chores. Montgomery (Mont) was an artist that just tagged along with Jimmie. Mont drew and he was perpetually working on a play. A play he'd eventually finish and make him an even weirder guy.

The two of them thought they had it made when the Victorian house was vacated. Now they could squat there and claim it as there own. That, or come up with the $4 million it would cost to buy it.

That's as much as I gathered from the movie as far as a plot. There were other side stories that gave more insight to these two main characters but the side stories also made the two main characters more enigmatic. The movie started slow and ended slower. I was patient with it because I can be patient with a movie and allow it to develop. What developed was nothing worth waiting for. Heck, one couple, maybe smarter than myself, left midway through. That exiting couple was a third of the audience.

Without being overly critical I'm just going to call it too artsy for me. This was one of those movies where just about everything had to be inferred and interpreted. Even the main conflict-if there was one-was nebulous. I don't need to be spoon fed but I don't feel like staring at abstract art either.

To me it was all too strange. Their friendship was strange, their daily routine was strange, it was strange how Mont just stared at the four regular locals as they hung out, it was strange to show some random old white guy plopping down at the bus stop fully nude, and Jimmie's obsession with his old house was strange. I mean, I have fondness for the place I grew up but that's where it stops. We live in a place, sometimes we lose that place or we just move on, then that place is just a memory. Maybe, if we had fond enough memories and the ability, we try to purchase that old home. That's as far as that fondness should ever go.

The only bright spots of the movie were the appearances of known actors. Mike Epps' brief spot was funny. Tichina Arnold and Danny Glover only provided a familiar face because they certainly didn't provide any credibility. To their defense, it was nothing they could do. This movie may have wowed some but I'd have to ask why.

I'll end with a quote from the movie that only summed up how odd it all was. There was a scene where Jimmie is riding the bus and these two women were discussing their disdain with San Francisco. They weren't conservatives at all by the looks of them, they just didn't like the city for whatever reason they mentioned. Upon hearing that, Jimmie Fails says, "You can't hate San Francisco."

One woman responds, "I can hate whatever the (expletive) I want to hate."

Jimmie asks, "Do you love it? Because you can only hate it if you love it."

What!?! That's it, I'm done.
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2/10
2 white guys write a super weird Caucasian storyline and use African Americans as clickbait, Of course the critics love it!
tkaine34 July 2019
'The Last Black Man In San Francisco' 🌠🌠 2/10 = Blasphemy Since I'm going to speak about race you should know I'm African American. From the minute this movie starts until it ends I knew this story was written for and by overly pretentious extra artsy white people. Now of course theres nothing wrong with that but when you use a title containing the last black man of anything it's going to draw attention. Especially if the lead roles are played by African Americans, But if you are black then you would think somewhere behind the camera would be some black people but out of the 25 major positions occupied behind the camera including the 14 executive producers, writers, director, cinematography, editing, music, casting, and other roles I need not categorize how many of those people do you think were African American? ..... If you guessed 1 then your correct yes. Khaliah Neal an executive producer that's it. There's even 2 asians amongst that group. Is that a surprise no because it's revealed the minute you start watching. Besides the characters skin color there is nothing appealing for black people in this film, from the way these characters act or what their objectives are on a day to day basis. Even the use of slo-mo was weird watching grown men dropping leaves from a roof top down to one another falling into a half opened trash bag collecting none as they fall to the ground I mean c'mon these actors are only doing it for a check I get that but damn somebody has to say to the director and writer Joe Talbot to ease up on the weirdo meter these scenes are getting out of hand. It's totally obvious the title and use of black characters for this eclectic slow and tedious misery of a movie is an attempt for an upcoming oscar given by those pretentious out of touch snobs who live for musicals and adaptations of Shakespeare. I will cringe when I see Joe Talbot take the stage and recieve his award for this feature. I think it's Safe to say that he knows the black community is not impressed. I wouldn't recommend this film for anyone regardless of their race I give it a 2 so it's rated Blasphemy, Considered a lie, not to be true or fraudulent.
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1/10
Boring. No story structure. Dreadful Acting
Artpix11 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Thought this would be an interesting indie movie, but alas not. There is no set-up or story structure, it's just a bunch of boring happenings strung to-gether. Thought because it had Danny Glover in it it may be good, in 50 minutes I saw him once, did not even say anything. Fowl low brow language, amateur acting, directing and cinematography, had to leave after 50 minutes, ( I tried to give it a chance, but figured it had enough time, and was going no-where). Got my money refunded. Boring, home movie, worst film I've seen in decades. Read 2 star reviews all true. Could not even give 2 stars, just could not. Don't not waste your time and money on this one. Another no-body director/writer who thinks he can make a movie. Think again 'Sleepy Joe'
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2/10
Boring
tfproven23 June 2019
People even left the theater early . Movie didn't seme to flow.
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1/10
Sorry, but its a fail.
BlobbyLight14 August 2019
San Fran: it is about money, not skin color. The title, story and reality dont coincide.. makes no sense actually. Its a fail.
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10/10
A Superb, Thoughtful Character Study
kjproulx14 August 2019
I've been thinking about calling A24 one of the best studios making films today, but it really hit me while watching The Last Black Man in San Francisco. This is a studio that very carefully picks their projects and more often than not, finds great material to release. I now believe they are not just one of the best, but the absolute best of the best, especially when looking at the films released by studios throughout this decade alone. This character study is one of the best films you will see this year.

Jimmie (Jimmie Fails), finding it hard to cope with the fact that the house his grandfather built may be taken away from him, leaving him with nothing, takes it upon himself to find a way to hold onto it. That's the core premise of the movie and with a strong friendship between Jimmie and Montgomery as the backbone of the dramatic aspects, this is a film that places its main character front and center. With a well fleshed out character that has me engaged from start to finish, you've already won me over, but there is so much more to love and admire here.

Adam Newport-Berra is at the helm as the film's cinematographer and I truly believe this has set the standard for the year. I would be absolutely shocked if he doesn't receive a nomination for his work in the coming months. On top of that, being director Joe talbot's first feature film to be released, it goes without saying that he is a filmmaker that's here to stay and I am giving an early prediction that, if not this year, there will be an awards season in the coming years that consistently rave about something he has done. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is littered with talent from top to bottom.

This movie would be a technical achievement in independent cinema regardless of the material being shown on-screen, but the fact that these technical aspects are buoyed by a central performance that truly moved me was another level of special. Actor Jimmie Fails plays a character by the exact same name and there may be personal influences that helped his performance here, but a great performance is a great performance nonetheless and he delivers one of the best I've seen all year so far.

In the end, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a film that takes its time in setting up the scenarios at hand, dives deep, and eventually delivers a very touching conclusion that had me totally invested. With superb direction, camerawork that deserves many awards, a score that soothes the mind as you're watching, and a core performance that elevates the already great material, this is a film that surely can't be missed. This is one of the very best movies I've seen all year.
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9/10
The Art of the Squat
Bachfeuer13 June 2019
Gentrification, "urban renewal," the Interstate Highway system, etc, have obliterated many centers of Black community and commerce from yesteryear. One does not have to be Black to know what it is to feel out of place in the neighborhood where one grew up because skewed, runaway prosperity has changed it so fast. This film is a superb meditation on all of that. Bravo!
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8/10
Captures the bonds of friendship that transcend changes brought by social and economic dislocation
howard.schumann2 August 2019
The San Francisco I knew as a young man was a place with a sense of community and culture that welcomed the adventurous, the imaginative, the creative, and the marginalized. Though, like every other major U.S. city, it was not always a place of harmony, and some neighborhoods had its dangers for outsiders, yet it was a city with a truly diverse population and a rich bohemian culture which has now all but disappeared. Joe Talbot's first feature, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, laments the heart of a city that has been broken by gentrification but celebrates the beauty that remains. Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra, and aided by a pensive score by Emile Mossei, the film is an affecting work that is based on Talbot's lifelong friendship with Jimmie Fails who plays a fictional version of himself, a young black man estranged from a place that he once called home.

Winner of the Directing Award at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, the film opens as two men, Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and his best friend Montgomery (Jonathan Majors, "Out of Blue") wait impatiently for a bus to take them to the city as a droning preacher (Willie Hen) stands on a soapbox shouting "Remember your truth in the city of façades." It is a message that reverberates throughout the film. Mont and Jimmy are headed to an old Victorian home on Golden Gate Avenue which Jimmie claims his grandfather built in 1946. The house, in what used to be a working class neighborhood, was lost by his father James Sr. (Rob Morgan, "Mudbound") in the 90s and Jimmie is obsessed with getting it back.

With pride, Fails claims that his grandfather was the first black man in San Francisco. Though this is little more than an urban legend, it provides him with a rationale for what he thinks is his historical claim to the house. Much to the chagrin of the older white woman (Maximilienne Ewalt, "Sense8" TV series) who owns the house, Jimmie often comes to touch up the paint on the windows and take care of the lawn but has to duck the fruit the owner throws at him while demanding that he leave the premises. The taciturn Jimmie works part-time as a nursing home attendant and Mont works at a fish market though he is also an artist, writer, and playwright.

Sadly, Jimmie's family is scattered and he has no home. He sleeps on the floor of Mont's house and, in an evening of warmth and friendship, they are shown watching the 1949 San Francisco film noir "D.O.A." on TV together as Montgomery narrates for his blind grandfather (Danny Glover, "The Old Man & the Gun"). Across the street from Mont's house, a group of young macho studs taunt the two friends presumably for their lack of "toughness," but it later becomes clear that much of it is posturing. In two striking scenes, Jimmie travels across the bridge to have some reflective conversations with his Aunt Wanda (Tichina Arnold, "Wild Hogs"), and in a funny but heartbreaking encounter, runs into his mother on the bus but their reunion is as uninvolved as it is fleeting.

To underscore the sense of displacement, Bobby (Mike Epps, "Resident Evil: Extinction"), a friend of James Sr., lives in Jimmie's dad's old car and insists on giving the two friends a ride into town which they reluctantly accept. In a scene that typifies the old spirit of San Francisco, Fails sits on a bench and is joined by a completely nude, older man (David Usner, "Roxie"), a scenario that scarcely raises an eyebrow with the exception of some rowdies passing on a tour bus. Things turn when the current owner of the old Victorian dies and it looks as if a legal dispute will tie up ownership rights for some time.

Acting quickly, after a real estate broker tells them the house would cost four million dollars to buy, they transport the family's old furniture, mostly still in good condition, into the mansion and move in as squatters. Though Jimmie still follows his dream, he knows that trying to recreate the house as he remembers it is a delusion, a fact he is forcefully reminded of by Mont in a play performed before a small audience in a corner of the old house. The Last Black Man in San Francisco captures the bonds of love and friendship that exist between people, bonds that transcend the changes brought by social and economic dislocation.

To put it in perspective, Reverend Danny Nemu once said, "Some mourn as their edifices crumble; but for the open-eyed and uninvested, all that is lost is that which lies between them and deeper understanding." Talking about his relationship with Mont, Fails agrees, "All I want is for friendships like ours to be able to exist," he says, "and that doesn't exist in the new San Francisco. That's really what it's about, getting back to that point where artists and outsiders can live there. Where weirdos who didn't feel accepted could come because that's what it used to be about. That's the best San Francisco in my eyes." It is the idea of San Francisco The Last Black Man in San Francisco lovingly conveys.
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10/10
The Critics Weren't Lying
cgearheart10 July 2019
I had read a review from a gentleman who had said this movie had moved his audience to audible tears and at that point I knew I had to see the movie. It takes quite a bit to make me cry so I took my chances. I was a slobbering mess. I honestly started weeping and I could not stop myself. This film is so special and I can't stress it enough. The fact that it was both a love letter to a friendship and city and that it portrayed two young men as being unique but strong individuals who weren't ridiculously manly was so impressive to me. I won't spoil the film for you but you must see this film, because it's the best I've seen all year. It's beautiful, it's real, it's The Last Black Man in San Francisco.

A+
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8/10
Slow but beautiful, touching, deep, original
uberdonkey617 August 2019
I have to say, this film meanders. But I'm sure it was written that way. Don't expect a fast paced plot, action, women (only saw 2 in whole film).

What it does is provide amazing cinematography. Beautiful scenes as if from a well crafted classic play. Great subtle gentle acting with interesting amd unique characters. It touches on many subjects through the scenes sprinkled liberally throughout, but in a novel and artistic way. This film is definitely art. Is it a good story? Well, some bits build to beautiful moments. I adored the relationship between the two main characters (male friends). So sweet, gentle. Makes you want to hug them. I want to watch this film again, even though at times I was on the edge of boredom. But damn, it's a beautiful film.

This deserves to be a classic, due to its uniqueness. The writer and director is clearly intelligent and creative beyond what I could aspire to, but the film isn't haughty. It's simple, solid, with emotion, friendship, love, loss, a yearning for meaning and fitting in. Of course it touches on race relations and black poverty, but in a way completely off centre to most approaches. I loved this film.

Do I recommend it? It will be like savouring a fine wine on an evening. For many, it will be fulfilling, touching, deep and profound. But some people don't like wine. Those that want action/love story/radical race politics, won't find it here.
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10/10
nothing to improve
kjell-cates11 June 2019
This movie was absolutely brilliant. I felt like was holding my breath for an hour after I got out of the theater. A literal must see.
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2/10
Not my San francisco
dick-350359 June 2019
Danny Glover was so out of place and the story had so many loose ends you wouldn't find them even when the fog clears
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