The Public – Film Review

Public libraries; a place you go to borrow books, use a computer or seek out advice. But to the homeless it is so much more. It’s a refuge from the cold, a toilet and washroom, and a great inexpensive way to kill time and distract yourself from your troubles. With Cincinnati facing it’s coldest winter on record due to an Arctic chill, the homeless are at their most vulnerable, with almost a dozen passing already due to exposure. 

Emilio Estevez returns to the big screen as writer, director, producer of The Public, but also as character Stuart Goodson, a library supervisor who finds himself in hot water and his job on the line after a past encounter with a homeless man. Jenna Malone stars as Myra, a library assistant that works with Goodson, alongside Anderson, the head librarian played by Jeffrey Wright and Ernesto played by Jacob Vargas who is the head of security for the library.

Ahead of another bitter night on the streets, with all the local shelters overflowing, homeless man and regular patron Jackson played by Michael K. Williams decides to take a stand, along with dozens of other men, to declare the library an emergency shelter. The library management want no part of it, but it turns hostile, with Goodson and Myra getting caught in the middle and locked inside with the men.

The Public is a fantastic film, as you would expect from Estevez. The film highlights so many issues facing America and the world today, with a heavy focus on the homeless; highlighting their mental health and addiction issues. But the film also takes aim at politics and the media in the form of a Mayoral candidate who twists the situation to suit his campaign, and the media who report fake news to make the peaceful protest seem like a hostage situation.

The script is really well written, and the acting is on point. The chemistry among the homeless characters is fantastic to the point where you really get a feeling that they have been great friends for years thanks to their friendly banter and jokes within the group. Goodson is the glue that brings it all together, a kind and sympathetic soul who uses his intelligence to help out not just the whole group, but some of the individuals too. 

The Public is a thought-provoking, impressive, touching and moving film on so many levels, and with so much meaning. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and to be honest, it even motivated me to donate some clothing and blankets to a local aid group, as we’re currently battling our own freezing winter. 

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