Parents' Guide to

The Public

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Inspiring story about homelessness has some mature content.

Movie PG-13 2019 122 minutes
The Public Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 12+
age 12+

Solid social justice film

The appropriate age level for your children to watch this will depend on your personal values and how comfortable you are explaining/discussing tough social, economic, and behavioral issues to them. I saw this movie at a special screening sponsored by local non-profits and the local public library. I enjoyed the film, although there are some portrayals and tropes that could have been handled a bit differently. For example, the majority of the homeless people are played by people of color, and because of this there is a slight feeling of “white saviorism” to the film. On the other hand, I think a lot of the class issues were handled beautifully. The film does contain a lot of nudity, including scenes of a crowd of naked men shown from behind. There is a fair amount of swearing and talk of substance abuse. Throughout the film a few homeless people die of exposure (it is not shown graphically) and one man has a seizure. Some of the men physically fight. If you are open to teaching your children harsh truths about injustice, social class disparities, institutional racism and classism, and potential consequences of substance abuse then this is a good movie to consider. I think it handles many of these issues with compassion and empathy. While the themes and much of the content is serious, there is also quite a bit of humor in the film. I have an 8 year old son; we have age appropriate talks about the above issues. If we were to watch it together, I would need to take care to differentiate between the jokes and the seriousness of the subject matter. I could see myself pausing the film often to explain things or to make sure he understands why some of the jokes, while funny, also have very serious undertones. Because of this, I would probably wait a few years to watch with him or to take him to see a film like this in theaters. Emilio Estevez is a good director and actor. I also really enjoyed his movie The Way. I hope he continues to make more thoughtful films like these two.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (2):
Kids say: Not yet rated

Writer/director/star Estevez achieves a career high with this empathetic look at homelessness, concentrating on a rousing, inspiring story, rich characters, and a fluid, detailed visual style. The Public inspires obvious comparisons to another Estevez movie set in a library over the course of a single day (The Breakfast Club), and while the two movies are both highly entertaining, The Public is slightly more ambitious. Unlike those behind so many other "message" movies, Estevez understands that ideas are best conveyed within the context of a good story. The Public doesn't try to lecture or solve the problem of homelessness; instead, it presents it on a very human level, with humor and heart.

Estevez's character, Stuart, is one of his best performances. Stuart is a nervous, wounded man with a hidden reservoir of strength and hope. The rest of the strong cast members rise to the occasion, with character actor Williams standing out and stealing most of the movie. As director, Estevez uses the library setting in a dynamic way, keeping the story flowing and the visuals moving, while his screenplay has a variety of satisfying riches and details. The Public should leave viewers smiling and, hopefully, with a fresh view on both homelessness and the local library.

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