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Emilio Estevez’s “The Public” Is The Best Film Of 2019 So Far

What’s better than when an under the radar title absolutely blows you away? Unexpected cinematic joys are really the best kind to me. In the case of The Public, I’d been interested in it, due to enjoying actor and filmmaker Emilio Estevez’s last two outings, Bobby and The Way. However, I was not prepared for how hard this was going to hit me. It’s a riveting tale with terrific acting, directing, and writing. You’ll actually laugh and cry, which is hard to pull off. The Public, hitting theaters this week, is something special, ladies and gentlemen. This is the best film of the year so far. Sentimental but never over the top, it’s truly a treat.

The film is a drama about what happens on a bitter cold day in downtown Cincinnati. The Public Library is a hub for the homeless, a place where they can temporarily get out of the frigid weather, as well as clean up and get on the internet, etc. The library’s patrons, with such a large quantity being homeless, mentally ill, or both, present challenges for head librarian Stuart Goodson (Estevez). His boss (Geoffrey Wright) is sympathetic but has his hands tied, so often it’s Stuart, his main librarian Myra (Jena Malone), and the security who have to placate the patrons. The homeless contingent is ostensibly led by Jackson (Michael Kenneth Williams), a mentally ill vet who, on this day, decides it’s too cold for everyone to leave when the library closes. Jackson wants it named a temporary emergency shelter. When they refuse to leave, Stuart and Myra are left with them as Detective Bill Ramstead (Alec Baldwin) and District Attorney/Mayoral hopeful Josh Davis (Christian Slater) arrive on the scene. What begins as a simple act of civil disobedience on the part of Jackson becomes a stand off with police, one that Stuart becomes a focal point of, as well as a situation where the media is constantly speculating about what is really going on. Through it all, there’s laughs, tragedy, and a sense that the story being told is an important one. Estevez writes and directs here, in addition to starring. Juan Miguel Azpiroz provides the cinematography, while the score is by Tyler Bates and Joanne Higginbottom. Supporting players include Patrick Hume, Taylor Schilling, Gabrielle Union, Jacob Vargas, Rhymefest, and more.

I absolutely loved this movie. At its heart, this is an angry story, though it’s brilliant how Estevez depicts it with a ton of heart and humor. It’s an issue film, one extraordinarily upset with how the homeless are treated by society, but it’s to everyone involved’s credit that this also functions as a first rate crowd pleaser. The performances of Baldwin, Estevez, Malone, Slater, and Williams are all top notch. The script walks up to the line of being preachy but always pulls back. For example, subplots involving Baldwin’s Bill looking for his addict son, who is on the street, as well as why Estevez’s Stuart is so invested in the patrons goes exactly where you expect, but who it’s handled is tremendously moving. This is the type of story where even the obvious moments land with true effectiveness. Then, there’s the ending, which actually is unexpected and kind of a joy to behold.

The Public represents a new creative high point for Estevez as a filmmaker. He previously handled an ensemble deftly with Bobby, while tugged at your heartstrings with The Way. Here, he combines the two and crafts something across the board fantastic. I’d go so far as to even say that The Public is Emilio Estevez’s masterpiece. The way he combines his skills as a crowdpleaser with his gigantic heart and empathy is a sight to behold. Like an orchestral conductor, he brings you from emotion to emotion, never letting it once ring false. The flick proclaims once again that the Academy should be paying attention to what Estevez is doing behind the camera. His quietly powerful storytelling is Oscar worthy.

This weekend, a truly phenomenal film opens in The Public. Again, this is the best thing I’ve seen so far in 2019. I can’t recommend this one enough. It stands tall as the class of the year right now. To be sure, the fact that it’s such a surprisingly magnificent tale only makes the pleasure in discovering it all the more joyous. If you give a shot to this one, you’ll almost assuredly love it. Not only does the movie have its heart in the right place, the craftsmanship is so strong that every move Estevez makes pays off. He’s crafted a towering achievement that demands your attention.

Be sure to check out The Public, in theaters beginning this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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