Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, The Public centers around a public library turned homeless shelter during a bout of extreme weather and the staff and patrons involved at odds against library officials and police. With Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, Christian Slater, Taylor Schilling, Emilio Estevez, Gabrielle Union, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Kenneth Williams, and many others.
“Books saved my life.” Emilio Estevez' writing in this film is excellent. The authenticity of the daily life of public library employees and the patrons they deal with is entirely on point. The characters are introduced and developed in entirely honest ways and their interactions and personalities are wholly believable and never feel designed. Despite what it feels like there’s actually a lot of moving parts that the script flawlessly fits into place and the progression felt as the story unfolds and the stakes heighten culminate in a story that is surprisingly stellar. At first glance, I was worried some characters would feel shoehorned in or thinly veiled but given time everyone involved is given credible depth that sells every inch of the screen.
“Hail Caesar!” There’s a lot here to process too, mixed between the bittersweet and serious moments. Comedic moments blend with dramatic plights, and more than a handful of messages are adequately brought to the forefront without ever feeling preachy. Topics of fake news, political tampering, democracy, opioid addiction, homelessness, sobriety, second chances, and more all fit together perfectly in the story Estevez has crafted.
“Make some noise! Make some noise!” The ensemble is impressive and even more so is how well they’re all utilized. No big names appear to quickly fill a scene and never be heard from again. Each and every character is given exactly the right amount of time for what they bring to the story, and all involved give above average to worthwhile performances. Estevez carries the film with really solid work, and his directing follows suit. He knows where to place the camera and how to handle it depending on the action, and the specificity allows for certain moments to hit more effectively than they might have under less careful consideration. There might not be a lot of flash here, but the final package is a straight shooting and moving piece of work.
An all-around stellar piece of work that has things to say and says them well.