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The Last Black Man in San Francisco

The stunning, elegiac debut drama is currently in theaters.

Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Metacritic score: 82

Critics like to call films “portraits” of things or people, but in the case of The Last Black Man in San Francisco, that’s nearly literal. Almost any shot from the movie — of faces, buildings, roadside weeds — could work on a gallery wall. I frequently found myself wanting to pause the scenes (impossible in a theater) and just see what the camera beckoned me to see.

That’s to cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra’s credit, and it’s also what elevates The Last Black Man in San Francisco from something merely interesting to something terrific. Director Joe Talbot and his close collaborator, Jimmie Fails, have crafted something special here: Yes, it’s a portrait of San Francisco, but also of dislocation and change and friendship.

And most of all, the film is a love letter — not a romantic one, but the kind you write when you can no longer maintain a relationship that nonetheless shaped you profoundly. Richly textured and vividly rendered, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is clearly the fruit of a lifelong love.

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