The Public Parent Guide
A sincere, earnest film with characters who feel both authentic and compelling.
Parent Movie Review
Librarian Stuart Goodson (Emilio Estevez) knows that Cincinnati has a problem with homelessness. Every day dozens of homeless citizens come to the library seeking the warmth and safety they can’t find in the city’s overcrowded shelters. On an especially cold night, the homeless, led by Jackson (Michael K. Williams) simply refuse to leave when the library closes. Police arrive and find that the protesters have barricaded themselves in on the third floor with Goodson, who elects to remain and join their protest for their right to shelter. Now it is up to Detective Bill Ramstead (Alec Baldwin) to talk them out…if he can.
I like this movie, but I’m going to begin with its problems, chief of which is that some of its characters feel a bit contrived. This is not to say that the script relies on caricatures but that the antagonists can sometimes feel like stock characters, particularly in the case of the reporter (Gabrielle Union) and the DA (Christian Slater). The dialogue also oscillates between sounding natural and compelling or wooden and clunky.
All that said, the word that kept coming to mind while I watched this movie was “earnest”. The execution may be unpolished but this production oozes sincerity. The characters aren’t terribly complex, but most of the protagonists still feel authentic and compelling. The simple camera work and minimal soundtrack also sell the story well, as they maintain the film’s focus on the characters and message. The biggest plus, however, is the unbelievable cast. Estevez does an excellent job, but Jena Malone steals every scene she’s in. Alex Baldwin is surprisingly empathetic, and Christian Slater seems to revel in being despicable. Everyone in front of the camera does a superb job at making their character feel genuine and sympathetic.
It’s unfortunate that this movie has not enjoyed a wide theatrical release. While it isn’t a jaw dropping, blockbuster production, The Public is relentlessly humane in its treatment of its characters, and certainly deserves a broader audience. It also gets bonus marks from me, as a frequent patron of my own local public library, for reminding people that they can read just about anything they want (basically) for free – and should do so. More importantly though, the film highlights one of the most significant problems we face as a society. By humanizing the people involved instead of simply labeling them, it gives audiences a moving and heartfelt look at people who are too often marginalized or ignored. Hopefully, this film won’t be ignored along with them.Directed by Emilio Estevez. Starring Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Emilio Estevez. Running time: 122 minutes. Theatrical release April 26, 2019. Updated May 10, 2019
Watch the trailer for The Public
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Public rated PG-13? The Public is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic material, nudity, language, and some suggestive content.
Violence: An individual is tackled and punched several times, resulting in a small facial cut.
Sexual Content: An unmarried couple is implied to have had sex off-screen. A lot of men are seen naked from behind as part of a peaceful protest.
Profanity: There are eight uses of moderate profanity, and perhaps a dozen uses of mild profanity and terms of deity. There is one whispered use of an extreme profanity and one use of a racial slur.
Alcohol / Drug Use: On character is shown with a small bottle of alcohol in a social setting but is not shown drinking. Several characters are described as alcoholics or drug addicts, but this behavior is not shown.
Page last updated May 10, 2019
The Public Parents' Guide
Homelessness effects over three million people in the United States alone. What, if any, programs are available for homeless people in your area to get back on their feet? Do you think those efforts are enough? What can you do personally to help the homeless or other marginalized groups in your community?
The stereotype for homeless people is that they are drug addicts or mentally ill. Do you think that is accurate? In many cases, all it takes to become homeless is unemployment. What would it take to make you homeless? How would you respond in that situation?
Recent studies have shown that simply providing housing to homeless people is the simplest and least expensive solution. Is this something your area offers?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Millions of Americans are homeless or on the brink of losing their homes. In his well-reviewed book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond explores the challenges facing those whose housing is the least secure. The author, who is also a sociologist, spent years living among the people he writes about as he studied Milwaukee’s housing crisis at a granular level.
For teen readers, Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming provides an introduction into the world of homeless youths. In this novel, four kids are abandoned in a mall parking lot when their mother decides she has had enough. The eldest child, a thirteen year old, does her best to keep her siblings together while finding them food and shelter.
Homelessness doesn’t just affect men with mental illness. Families can find themselves without a roof of their own. In Still a Family: A Story About Homelessness, Brenda Reeves Sturgess and Jo-Shin Lee bring this experience down to a child’s level with a story about how a family in separate shelters manage to maintain their bond.
Liz Murray’s memoir Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, recounts the astounding story of a young woman who completed high school by writing her assignments in the subway stations and cars where she spent the night to stay warm.
Related home video titles:
The Pursuit of Happyness shares the story of a down-on-his-luck salesman who finds himself and his young son homeless. As he fights to rebuild his family’s financial security, he also nurtures his child’s dreams and self worth.
In The Soloist, a reporter writes a series of articles about a homeless man who happens to be a gifted musician. The news stories change both their lives.
A wealthy man with a troubled marriage and a homeless man with mental illness come together in Same Kind of Different as Me and their friendship enriches both of them.