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#TIFF18 Review: The Public

September 16, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The latest from writer-director-star Emilio Estevez, The Public centres around Stuart Goodson (Estevez), a local librarian who ends up in the middle of a standoff with Detective Bill Ramstead (Alec Baldwin) when a group of homeless men led by Jackson (Michael K. Williams) occupy the Cincinnati Public Library on a bitterly cold winter night, to protest the city not providing adequate shelter.

The film brings up a lot of timely issues about the responsibilities that cities have to look after their homeless populations, and how this issue is often overly politicized for partisan gain, rather than being seen as a human crisis first and foremost. Many of the men here are also struggling with alcoholism and mental illness, and they use the public library not only as somewhere to stay warm during the day, but also as a place to keep connected and have access to free information.

The film also explores how the media spins things to their own advantage, with the reporter (Gabrielle Union) outside the building trying desperately to make it appear like a hostage situation to get better ratings. The sometimes broad script doesn’t necessarily develop all of these ideas equally, and the film is a bit heavy-handed at times, with some of the plot points feeling contrived.

But it’s very easy to get swept up in the story of The Public, and there is a genuine emotional payoff to the film. This an enjoyable and at times powerful film that works as a rousing crowdpleaser with real world relevance and an important message to share.

Alec Baldwin in The Public

Public Screenings:

Sunday, September 9th – 2:30 PM at Roy Thomson Hall

Monday, September 10th – 10:30 AM at Winter Garden Theatre

Friday, September 14th – 4:15 PM at Elgin Theatre

The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6th to 16th.

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