The Public (Emilio Esteves, 2018) USA

In a story that confronts many of society’s most prominent issues such as homelessness, mental illness, fake news, corruption, social policies, morals, climate change, and how they are handled by authorities; “The Public” does a brilliant job of making a statement in an entertaining way. The film combines comedy with some of most problematic issues in modern times.

“The Public” had its world premiere in opening at the Santa Barbara Film Festival at the Arlington theater. This is the first film Emilio Estevez has written and directed without his father (Martin Sheen) or brother (Charlie Sheen). Emilio Estevez plays Stuart Goodson, a librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library, who gets caught between the desires of the homeless people and the police force who wants them removed. Alec Baldwin plays Detective Bill Ramstead, a crisis negotiator for the city who attempts to reason with the occupants to leave the library. While Christian Slater plays a corrupt local district attorney running for mayor who desperately wants the homeless people out of the library and is obsessed with winning the election at any cost.

“The Public” takes place when a freezing spell hits the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. A large group of homeless line up at the door to the public library in the morning, as a way to come in from the cold. The story focuses on these people, who are in desperate need of shelter and warmth. The public library staff serve the public and deal with everyday catastrophe that comes with the job. The public libraries homeless population has no other place to go and many of whom are mentally ill, addicted to substances, are alcoholics and are otherwise marginalized. The staff has an emotional connection with many of the people who spend time at the library, and as the movie progresses, it shows these characters individual spirits with kindness.

Having run out of shelters, these people are forced to sleep on the streets at night, and they begin dying from the extreme cold. They decide to “occupy” the library, and stage a revolt against the rules of the library in order to obtain shelter at night. The movie portrays how the media twists the truth, just to get views on social media platforms. The film confronts many of society’s most difficult issues such as homelessness, mental illness, false news, corruption, morals, and social dilemmas. Ultimately the movie depicts how our government functions, and how people become polarized against each other within this democratic forum of a public library.

Cinematography by Juan Miguel Azpiro (Race to Witch Mountain, Original Sin) shows us the violent cycle of corruption , fake news and unfair treatment of the homeless through the use of cable news reporters, iphone footage, and security cameras. His use of wide angle shots depicts the freedom and sense of open empowerment within the closed in space of the library being occupied. The media attempts to say that they are trapped inside; the way the film is shot contradicts it and shows the sense of belonging within the confined space. This mixed with close up shots illustrates the intensity of the situation. The cellphone footage is easily manipulated to look ominous or like a threat on television when it was really a way of trying to tell the outside world that they’re there at their own will. A soundtrack by Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy, Watchmen) accentuates the film and creates a atmosphere with modern hip hop rhythm that fits the movies setting perfectly. The music portrays a mixture of toughness and vulnerability that comes with Cincinnati’s inner city. To Kill a Mockingbird also reviews the way disadvantaged people are not trusted, yet it uses the court system instead of the library as it’s forum. Alec Baldwin is famous for starring in many different movies, TV shows, and commercials. He played  Jack Donaghy on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, and portrays Donald Trump on the comedy sketch TV show Saturday Night Live. He starred in a series of commercials for the bank Capital One; for which he gave away all of the money he was paid, over fourteen million dollars.

Overall, “The Public” does is an impressively well done serious yet comedic social commentary on the current state of our society and the extent the public must go to rise against corruption. If you are in search of a heartwarming reality check, this film is a must see.


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