#SheWatches The Public

July 31, 2019

If you’re anything like me The Breakfast Club is one of your favourite movies to watch and rewatch. You’ll remember Emilio Estevez was the dreamy star of this classic film, set mostly in a library. Fast forward over 30 years and Estevez stars in, writes the screenplay for and directs The Public, a terrific new movie set in a public library. SheSociety were lucky enough to watch an advanced screening of the film which received the highest praise from my film buff husband who said, ‘That was a really good movie’. 

The film follows the story of librarian, Stuart Goodson (Estevez) who is your typical strait-laced and kind librarian. Stuart becomes friendly with the homeless who come to shelter, read, browse the internet, wash and rest in the library each day. When the weather becomes bitterly cold, homeless people are dying all over the city. He arrives to work one morning to find a homeless man dead right on his doorstep.

The regulars on Stuart’s floor decide to hold a peaceful sit in and will not leave the library at closing time. Stuart faces a dilemma, leave and hand things over to the police or stay and support the 100 or so men. He decides to stay and protect the group led by charming army veteran Jackson (Michael Kenneth Williams). This leads the District Attorney (Christian Slater) and police negotiator (Alec Baldwin) to intervene and clash with their very different approaches to the problem. They are ably supported by Stuart’s quirky, but beautiful building manager (Taylor Schilling) and fellow librarian, Myra (Jena Malone).

Ultimately the film shines a light on the lives of one of the most marginalised groups in society and argues that public libraries are for the community to bring groups together, to promote knowledge and to shelter those in need. The movie shows that the public library is the last great symbol of public democracy. 

If this all sounds too heavy, I can assure you it’s not under the deft hand of Estevez. This is his seventh film as director and was written by Estevez after he read a true story in the Los Angeles Times. Although it is a clear shout out to make a difference, the film is filled with endearing and quirky characters, humour and humanity. The final scene is crowd pleasingly funny in this social drama with a lot of heart. The Public will be in cinemas from August 1. 

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