The Public

Critics Consensus

Its intentions are sometimes easier to appreciate than its execution, but The Public remains an earnest and reasonably engaging social advocacy drama.



Total Count: 83


Audience Score

User Ratings: 167
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Movie Info

In "The Public" an unusually bitter Arctic blast has made its way to downtown Cincinnati and the front doors of the public library where the action of the film takes place. At odds with library officials over how to handle the extreme weather event, some homeless patrons turn the building into a shelter for the night by staging an "Occupy" sit in. What begins as an act of civil disobedience becomes a stand-off with police and a rush-to-judgment media constantly speculating about what's really happening. This David versus Goliath story tackles some of our nation's most challenging issues, homelessness and mental illness and sets the drama inside one of the last bastions of democracy-in-action: your public library.


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Critic Reviews for The Public

All Critics (83) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (55) | Rotten (28)

  • It's hard to play a good man doing the right thing. Saints are dramatically dull, but Estevez gets away with it here.

    Jul 30, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Estevez's drama gets a little preachy in the second half, but "The Public" is passionate about its cause and the cast... deliver like the pros they are.

    May 20, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Alec Baldwin, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Slater and Gabrielle Union all look like they'd rather be somewhere else.

    Apr 25, 2019 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Writer-director-star Emilio Estevez turns a library occupied by homeless citizens as ground zero for our under-fire democracy. Bravo!

    Apr 13, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The problem is, there's only just enough story to go round. You can hear the creak as both characters and subplots get jacked up out of proportion.

    Apr 7, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Its heart is in the right place, but because it's mired in too many of Estevez's questions about public duty versus public safety, The Public struggles to stay on track and keep the viewer involved.

    Apr 5, 2019 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

    Rex Reed

    Top Critic

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