The Public Image

The Public

By Alan Ng | April 5, 2019

Writer/director/actor Emilio Estevez is clearly his father’s son. In The Public, he’s using this film as a platform for his political activism by bringing awareness to the problem of homelessness and the importance of public libraries as a vital part of a civilized culture.  And of course, if you don’t agree with the film’s message, you’re a greedy, racist, capitalistic Nazi.

Emilio Estevez is librarian Stuart Goodman working at the prestigious Cincinnati Public Library. As Goodman arrives just before the library’s open, he is greeted by the usual group of homeless men and women who use the library to clean-up, search the net, read books, and find warmth from Cincinnati’s bitter cold spell.

This is not Goodman’s day as he is pulled into a meeting with his supervisor Anderson (Jeffrey Wright) and city attorney Josh Davis (Christian Slater). Apparently, Goodman had days before asked a homeless person to leave the library because he reeked of body odor, thus denying that gentleman’s ability to access the free services provided by the library and thus violating his civil rights.

“…a vocal group of homeless men discusses the possibility of staying in the library overnight because the nearby shelters have reached capacity…”

Clearly, under the bureaucratic thumb of city politics, Goodman finds support in his fellow librarian Myra (Jena Malone), who is at heart a liberal activist of liberal causes, and his neighbor Angela (Taylor Schilling), who might just be a good match for Goodman in the relationship category.

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  1. Estevez’s ‘The Public’ is a compelling drama for librarians and library lovers alike – Libraries in Popular Culture says:

    […] as a central part of the film, say the film has a “subpar screenplay,” is “self-righteous,” or is “sincere” with a “political heart.” Comments are welcome, as […]

  2. Estevez’s ‘The Public’ is a compelling drama for librarians and library lovers alike – History Hermann says:

    […] as a central part of the film, say the film has a “subpar screenplay,” is “self-righteous,” or is “sincere” with a “political heart.” Comments are welcome, as […]

  3. The Public: Movie Review – HOMEpdx says:

    […] from Rotten Tomatoes cited critics. Some of the films detractors such as Allan Ng have such as suggested that the film’s depiction of police and city officials as over-the-top or based on a… (again I’d like to point out that, excluding some excellent documentaries, I can count the […]

  4. Carl W Newton says:

    You can expect positive reviews from people who see this movie because only liberals will see it. Many people will not even see a movie with Alec Baldwin, expecting a sarcastic liberal politicalization of any issue. It may be a watchable movie that I will never see because of him.

  5. Timothy L. Smalls says:

    I saw this movie at the only AMC Theater in the city of Milwaukee on Saturday night. I was touched and moved by the screenplay, since 40 years ago I was one of those homeless. My angst with the storyline is that it fell short in examining the plight of the homeless with regard to other aspects of life besides surviving weather related danger, but then again, it only ran 2 hours. LOL. As the world’s greatest Aficionado of The West Wing, I can truly wholeheartedly agree with Alan Ng’s review in indicating Emilio Estevez is truly his father’s son. Martin Is a proud daddy.

  6. Adria E. Navarro says:

    As a professor at Azusa Pacific University, our MSW grad students have been studying the various models in Los Angeles County that partner social workers with librarians in our public libraries. Patrons needing linkage to resources include those experiencing caregiver burden, domestic violence, immigration struggles, unemployment and more. If you know a journalist that would like to get some of our information into the news cycle, please connect.
    Adria Navarro (

  7. J says:

    The plot of the film reflects the reality in the eyes of the homeless and library staff per the above feedback you received.

  8. Alan Ng says:

    Just to be clear. The sentence quoted refers to the actual plot of the film and not the real plight of homelessness or the importance of libraries in service to all members of the community.

  9. Kelley Cutler says:

    If you think this movie is “heavy-handed fiction, which creates an emotional disconnection with the very real plight of homelessness” you are clearly uninformed about the reality of homelessness. I’ve been working in homelessness for the past 18 years and this movie is spot on. The criminalization of homelessness is a HUGE issue. We have a housing and health crisis, and yet the status quo is a law enforcement response… I see it on a daily basis. I was thrilled to finally see a movie that got it right… and the added bonus of being hilarious. This movie is a must see!

  10. Sarah W Rosenblum says:

    I saw this film last summer at the American Library Association Annual Conference, it is spot on with what is happening every day in America’s public libraries. As a 30 year librarian I was astonished to see how much the writer director got right about the homeless and their use of the library. I urge everyone to see this film. I am hoping to screen it in conjunction with my local homeless shelter.

  11. Gloria says:

    Where can I view this movie? It’s not in theaters or online. Which is strange because of the mainstream actors represented. I’m just wondering because I’ve been looking for a while now.

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