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The Public - Film Review

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by Claudia Bianchi (subscribe)
A Brisbane-based writer who enjoys discovering good food experiences, great coffee and fun events. Subscribe and we will keep you posted on what's happening in your city.
Published July 31st 2019
Every story matters

This film was written, directed, and produced by its lead actor, original Brat Pack member Emilio Estevez (The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, The Outsiders and Young Guns). With Emilio at the wheel, it makes sense that this film secured a blockbuster cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone, and Christian Slater, to name a few.

The Public is moving drama set in a Public Library in downtown Cincinnati. During opening hours, its patrons consist of your everyday library cardholders that include the homeless, mentally ill and otherwise marginalised people. When a particularly deadly cold snap hits the city, a group of homeless men led by Jackson (Michael Kenneth Williams), overtake the library seeking refuge. What begins as an act of civil disobedience becomes a stand-off with police, the media spins the story as a hostage situation, and chaos ensues. Stuart (Emilio Estevez), the librarian, feeling a sense of obligation, decides to stand with them to not only make a statement but to save their lives.

Emilio Estevez wrote this screenplay after reading a moving 2007 essay called "Written Off" by Chip Ward, a now-retired assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System, published in part in the Los Angeles Times (and in full at under the title, "What They Didn't Teach Us in Library School: The Public Library as an Asylum for the Homeless").

The library is one of the rare places people can stay for a while without having to spend any money. The film was 12 years in the making, Estevez said 'It started as an idea but then became a moral imperative to get it done'. Estevez is known to cultivate films and stories with relevant messages. This one shines a much-needed light on the global issue of homelessness. Interestingly, and in the act of kindness, Estevez hired extras from Cincinnati's homeless population. He gave them meals, a paycheck and through this kindness, a little dignity and sense of empowerment.

the public, emilio estevez, movie review, film review
The Public - Image Courtesy of Ned & Co

I enjoyed the film and would happily watch it again. It is full of heart, humour, timely social commentary and solid performances by all involved. Alec Baldwin (Detective Bill Ramstead) is a fantastic dramatic actor, it great to see him back at it. Christian Slater is brilliant as district attorney Josh Davis. Jena Malone shines as a quirky environmentally conscience librarian. Emilio Estevez is perfect as do-gooder Goodson. My only critic is that I think this film would have done better as a series. There are just so many interesting characters that could be further fleshed out. With such great actors, it is a shame they all didn't get enough moments. The ending is a brilliant, big screen, popcorn worthy moment that had me smiling.

Bravo, The Public!


Emilio Estevez
as Stuart Goodson, a librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library
Alec Baldwin as Detective Bill Ramstead, a crisis negotiator for the Cincinnati Police Department
Christian Slater as Josh Davis, the local district attorney for the City of Cincinnati
Jena Malone as Myra, a librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library
Taylor Schilling as Angela, Stuart's neighbour and love interest
Michael K. Williams as Jackson, the homeless man who leads the Occupy sit-in at the library
Jeffrey Wright as Mr. Anderson, the head librarian of the Cincinnati Public Library
Gabrielle Union as Rebecca Parks, a local reporter
Jacob Vargas as Ernesto, head of security for the library
Richard T. Jones as Chief Edwards
Bryant Bentley as Cactus Ray, the homeless man who helps Jackson in the sit-in at the library
Ki Hong Lee as Chip
Michael Douglas Hall as Smutts, homeless friend of Jackson's that sparks the idea of the sit-in
Che "Rhymefest" Smith as Big George
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Why? Feel good movie
When: Out now
Where: Cinema near you
Cost: Price of a movie ticket
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