Emilio Estevez’s film transports us into the world of a Cincinnatti public library simply called The Public. The film builds slowly as we get to meet head librarian Stuart Goodson (Emilio Estevez), librarian colleague Myra (Jena Malone) and get to know some of the patrons who frequent the library regularly.
We see that there is a bit of tension, friendly enough though, between Stuart and Myra. We also notice that many of the regulars are scruffy and bedraggled looking. We see some of them using the bathroom to tidy themselves up a little and make themselves a bit respectable.
At this point, I am wondering where the film is going to go with its portrayal. What I do know is that the world being portrayed feels very authentic to me. One group that public libraries attract is people from a low income with the free wi fi, the warm air conditioning, the comfortable seating, and the endless books, magazines and cds to look at.
I went a lot recently to my local library and there used to be a guy who was always in the same spot in the library and he would have all his clothes and food packages with him. He just ‘camped’ there during the day. I presumed, at night, that he slept out in the cold.
As the film continued we find out that a lot of these patrons are actually homeless and sleep in shelters at night. Stuart Goodson treats them with respect, and they treat him the same way. He is almost like a carer to them, Goodson treats them with such sensitivity.
Things come to a head when the homeless shelters book out. There is nowhere for the patrons to go. The self declared leader of the group tells Goodson that they are not leaving the library at closing time. They are going to stay in the library over night. At least they will be warm and safe whilst Cincinnati goes through one of its coldest winters on record.
Goodson is conflicted. He feels for them. Should he support them in their act of civil disobedience? What can he do? Or should he do his job, call security and get the police involved to clear the library?
You will have to see the film to find out what happens. It’s enough to say that things get very dramatic.
My verdict. Estevez’s film was very engaging. His direction was good, and he was very credible in the lead role. The cast was strong, and included Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater. The drama builds up well and things come to a very poignant conclusion.
This film is well worth a visit.
THE PUBLIC opens in cinemas Thursday 1st August, 2019.