Above: Homeless visitor Jackson (Michael K Wiliams) and librarian Stuart Goodson (Emilio Estevez).
No matter how many movies Emilio Estevez does, he’ll always be the Mighty Ducks coach in my mind.
In The Public, though, he shows his writing and directing chops, telling a story that’s itching to invoke social change. The Public is an off-beat and endearing tale about Cincinnati’s homeless community, and their act of protest in commandeering the local library for shelter during a bitter winter’s night.
The city council attempt to evict them, and the library staff have to decide whether they’ll be on the side of the law, or the side of the people.
Screening at the Sydney Film Festival last month, The Public is a delightful alternative to the blockbuster-fare we’ve become accustomed to watching. It’s driven by an innate moral code that says humans need to survive, and we are all responsible for ensuring that happens.
It touches on issues of addiction, identity, political manipulation, and most notably, the role of traditional institutions in creating community (a library gets to be the centre of attention!)
For all its weighty elements though, The Public brings tender humour to the harsh realities of homelessness. It shows the importance of friendship amongst those living rough, and compels us to take account for their situation and empower them to change it.
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Library staffer Stuart (Emilio Estevez) comes to symbolise those who champion the outcast, and won’t settle for a rehearsed response to helping them.
His own backstory feeds into his need to care for the homeless, but his fumbling normalcy keeps his noble quest relatable.
Bearing in mind its themes, The Public isn’t for young children, but will hopefully inform how families think about, and respond to, homelessness in their city.
Below: Watch the movie trailer.
Below: Actor Michael K Williams and Emilio Estevez talk about the communal experience of filming a movie in a public library after hours.