One of my most cherished memories are those spending hours at the library reading until I literally couldn’t stay awake. I still love the smell of pages after cracking open a hardcover book.
There’s nothing like it and nothing better or more necessary than a public library. Which is why I adore the way Director Emilio Estevez chose to open The Public with vintage library footage circling around to present day with hoards of homeless seeking refuge from the bitter cold winter of Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Public Library is not only shelter from the cold, but a place where these homeless vets meet in the bathroom, trading facts, playing backgammon, reading and setting up dates on the internet and every once in a while you see one totally meltdown singing “I Can See Clearly Now” naked in plain sight.
After getting hit with a lawsuit concerning ejecting a homeless man over his offensive smell, the library board decides to settle for $750K and make Supervisor Stuart Goodson (Emilio Estevez) the scapegoat. Meanwhile, it is reported the city is about to experience record cold temperatures. With shelters full and numerous deaths mounting, the homeless regular library patrons decide to occupy in an attempt to make The Public a temporary emergency shelter.
Emilio Estevez and Taylor Schilling have combustible chemistry leading an all-star cast that includes Jeffrey Wright, Gabrielle Union, Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, Jena Malone, Che “Rhymefest”, Michael Kenneth Williams and Richard T. Jones. The Public is surprisingly poignant and comical with great writing inspired from a 2007 essay by Chip Ward – a retired Salt Lake City librarian who wrote about how public libraries have become the undesignated shelters for the homeless population . The film also reminds us that every person on the street is a human that is someone’s daughter, son, father, mother or child. They should be treated with the dignity that comes along with being a part of the human race and not with the assumption that they are crazy or up to no good. It broke my heart when one character exclaimed, “I don’t have anything anybody wants…that’s freedom.” The Public, produced by Greenwich Entertainment and Hammerstone Studios is released on April 5th and reminded me that everybody has a voice. It’s up to us to use it or stay silent and sometimes you gotta make some noise to get results.