The Public (Emilio Estevez, 2018): USA

Reviewed by Savasia J. Vida at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, 2018.

The Public invites the clash between the authority and the homeless that highlights the intensity and quick solutions made to de-escalate the crisis of overpopulated public housing. Located in downtown Cincinnati, the public library is seen as a safe space for the homeless to educate themselves, use the bathroom/clean and even sleep. One of the librarians, Stuart Goodson, has a rather personal relationship with a couple homeless guys as they persuade him to use the public library for a night of public housing due to the piercing and deathly cold weather reports that have killed several homeless people in the area.

The occupation of the public library is seen a good strategy for the homeless, but the police and media outlets beg to differ. As they surround the library, they claim how the building is used as a “hostile situation”, where the homeless are seen as a threat to the outside world. As a former homeless man, Stuart empathizes with his peers; he even videotapes the conditions within the library as they enjoy themselves by playing board games, reading and eating pizza. But as the night goes on, the intensity between the authority and the homeless increases as Stuart must come up with a plan to let everyone go without being prosecuted for wanting to stay in a warm place.

The Public‘s theme is thought-provoking as it addresses the perspective of the homeless population trying to survive is cold weather conditions. Not only does this film illuminate the various perspectives the population goes through, I left the theater with an open-mind of how the simple things the rest of us have are taken for granted. I do want to address the heavy presence of homeless men in the film: I feel that the exclusion of homeless women within this occupation doesn’t fully encompass the experience of the homeless. If anything, homeless women have more health needs to attend to that could’ve highlighted additional complex notions to the plot.



About this entry