“The Public” (M) ****
THAT enigmatic title delivers a low-budget, high-impact film that tackles some of the social issues currently challenging America. Avoiding national politics and people at the top, it looks at a city’s grassroots disadvantages, the poor, the homeless, men suffering mental illness. And at local government as an election approaches, at the limited focus of local news media, at local power issues.
So why four stars for a movie about those matters?
It’s written and directed by Emilio Estevez, who also plays Stuart, a librarian at a public library in Cincinnati. It’s winter. The library is a place where indigent men come for shelter at least during library opening hours.
On the day in question, dramatic values begin to develop, the plight of characters gains exposure, the division between compassion and authority widens, and those in positions of authority are thinking more about how a sit-in at closing time and the possible public outcry will affect their electoral prospects.
The production shortcomings in “The Public” are not powerful enough to displace the human values that form its core. The good guys don’t win in the last reel. Nor do they lose. Tomorrow may bring a mote of change.
And that’s why I rate the film as meriting four stars.
At Palace Electric, Capitol 6