“The Public”, written and directed by Emilio Estevez, was in my shortlist to see at the Toronto International Film Festival but I was afraid I may not be able to due to a lack of time or a conflict in schedule. Luckily, I managed to sneak into the afternoon screening, which happened to be the premiere. Although I had missed the intro, I did not really think much about it, as the next two hours were the most uplifting, positive and hopeful ones I had lived in recent times.
Before even getting to the point of what “The Public” is about, you, my dear reader, should certainly pay attention to the title of the film and grasp its deep definition. The story revolves around Cincinnati’s Public Library that happened to host dozens of homeless people who declared it as an emergency shelter from the ten degree freezing cold outside as none of them wanted to die overnight. Unfortunately, what happened as a good intention turns into a roller coaster ride of emotions as the entire police department of Cincinnati and special forces are ready to storm the Public Library, presumably because of the falsely spread hostage situation by prosecutor Josh Davis (Christian Slater) who was hoping to get extra points that night and gain chances to be elected as the new mayor of Cincinnati.
I have, perhaps, already given away too much information for you to process but there are a few things that are deadly important – all those homeless people in the film, at least the majority, are war veterans that ended up living in the streets. The city has already declared an emergency situation due to cold and would demand every single person, especially those who have no roof above their heads to move to shelters that are overwhelmed with so many other occupants. So the question is, if all the shelters are full, where should all these homeless people go to survive the night?
Stuart Goodson, exceptionally portrayed by Emilio Estevez, is a kind and warm-hearted person. Because of his dark past, he offers every help he could to those who are in need. That’s how he ended up confronting his direct supervisor, Anderson (Jeffrey Wright), knowing that he might lose his job but still manages to get the permission to use the public library as a shelter. Detective Bill Ramstead played by Alec Baldwin, who’s always a joy to watch, has his own family matter to deal with. Before he was called to the scene, he went to the nearby shelter to look for his son. Baldwin’s character is not that of a bad cop, not at all. He realizes the burden he carries on his shoulders, but the man knows duty is duty and that he has no choice but to fulfil it no matter what.
As the story unfolds, the entire movie turns out to be deeply moving, raw and socially important. Rebecca Parks, portrayed by Gabrielle Union, is one of the dullest reporter you will ever see. She is not interested in facts or truth. All what she cares about is the rating of her show and how to boost it. For instance, when Angela gave her the video sent by Scott, she never looked at it and simply decided for herself what type of news she must report to her viewers without it being authentic.
I can go on and on about how great, intelligent and simply brilliant “The Public” is. But more importantly, it is a genuine, deeply moving movie about the hypocrisy in politics, how fake news can manipulate people’s opinion yet how generosity and human kindness still prevails over evil. It also touches upon about zero opportunities for the homeless, the rules that for some reason the government or the law cannot reconsider, even if someone’s life depends on it. Why was it so important to kick every homeless person out of the public library, if the government or the city has no alternatives to offer?
Why can’t they close their eyes and pretend nothing has happened for one night and let everyone warm up inside? But rules are rules and there are no alternatives existing, which means no matter what we do, there is no way for us to beat corrupt politicians or lawmakers that, at the end of the day, are the only ones who enjoy the book of law which they use as a toy for their pleasure. But the common man, or those who do not have money to stand against them, expects only one outcome – the one offered by the highly sensitive and thoughtful “The Public”.