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film review

When the homeless occupy a city library to escape freezing temperatures, it triggers an extreme reaction by local authorities and media in The Public.Brian Douglas/Courtesy of Mongrel Media

The Public

Written and directed by Emilio Estevez

Starring Emilio Estevez, Taylor Schilling and Alec Baldwin

Classification PG; 119 minutes


1.5 out of 4 stars

The perfect movie to show Doug Ford and the worst movie to show anybody else, The Public is writer-director Emilio Estevez’s grand, well-meaning and extremely hokey vanity project/tribute to the public-library system. Taking place almost entirely inside Cincinnati, Ohio’s main downtown library, the drama focuses on one tremendously heroic librarian (Estevez, casting himself) who joins forces with the city’s homeless population to help stage an after-hours occupation of the building during a cold snap. This inciting incident happens relatively early in the film, leaving the remaining hour and a half available for Estevez to hammer home his obvious point (libraries are public spaces, and should remain so) and dip his toes into some white-saviour tropes. Oh, and since Estevez is in charge, he casts Taylor Schilling as his two-decades-younger love interest, and calls in favours from famous friends to populate the rest of his ensemble. Alec Baldwin, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Slater and Gabrielle Union all look like they’d rather be somewhere else. Perhaps, even, a library.

The Public opens April 26 in Toronto.

Films opening this week: The unstoppable Avengers: Endgame, plus Toronto’s Hot Docs festival begins