Film FestivalsMovie ReviewsTIFF 2018: The Public Review

Keith NoakesSeptember 15, 2018

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. If you would like to keep up with our content, click here.

Synopsis: In “the public” an unusually bitter Arctic blast has made its way to downtown Cincinnati and the front doors of the public library where the action of the film takes place. The story revolves around the library patrons, many of whom are homeless, mentally ill and marginalized, as well as an exhausted and overwhelmed staff of librarians who often build emotional connections and a sense of obligation to care for those regular patrons. At odds with library officials over how to handle the extreme weather event, the Patrons turn the building into a homeless shelter for the night by staging an “Occupy” sit in. (IMDB)

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Alec Baldwin, and Christian Slater

Writer: Emilio Estevez

Director: Emilio Estevez

Rating: PG-13 (United States)

Running Time: 119mins


The topic of homelessness is an important one in today’s society so this film covers this but for whatever reason, also decides to make it about more than that. The film’s title revolves around Cincinnati’s public library. Most of the film took place there as the library’s predominately homeless patrons held a peaceful sit-in within the library to protest their living conditions during a horrific Arctic blast. During their time at the library, these patrons have developed strong relationships with the staff, especially with a librarian supervisor named Stuart Goodson (Estevez) who had more in common with them than they may have realized. As much as this film was about the homeless epidemic, it was about the library being a bastion of free speech.

Of course the sit-in would attract the authorities and that’s what happened here. Detective Bill Ramstead (Baldwin) and a sleazy prosecutor and mayoral candidate named Josh Davis (Slater) were there as a contrast between different and obvious perspectives. Their back and forth was somewhat entertaining to watch as were the personalities of the different homeless patrons but it got repetitive very quickly. Adding to this was an unnecessary subplot involving an opportunistic TV reporter named Rebecca Parks (Gabrielle Union).

Despite a few too many characters, the acting was good across the board with Estevez being the standout. Not only did he direct and write the film, he also stars and did a decent job at all three. The direction was adequate, the script had some fun moments though tried to do too much, and he was somewhat compelling to watch as Goodman. He was an interesting character but he kind of got buried in the conflict.

Overall, this was a film that may have its heart in the right place but it tries to do too much and becomes weighed down by all its social commentary. The film boasts a great cast who all perform admirably, albeit doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Score: 7.5/10

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