BWW Reviews: Facts Are Subjective in THE LIBRARY
In an age where countless commercial media outlets compete to be the first covering a news story and anyone with Internet access can report their opinions as fact, the truth has never been so subjective.
Unconfirmed reports are accepted as fact by a public that tends to form quick unwavering opinions. Eye-catching headlines give misleading summaries of an article's content. Activists turn previously anonymous people into national heroes or villains as it suits their causes. Trials begin with public verdicts already decided based on media reports instead of the permitted evidence and if an undeniable truth is ever proven, the news of it could wind up buried beneath the ever-lasting perceived truth.
In Scott Z. Burns' tense and effective drama, The Library, a sixteen-year-old girl's future is decided as she lies unconscious in a hospital bed; not only by the doctors who save her life, but by a classmate who gives an eyewitness account of how she told a gunman on a shooting rampage in their high school library where a group of kids were hiding.
When Caitlin (an excellent Chloë Grace Moretz) has finally regained consciousness - suffering permanent disfigurement and recurring internal damage from gunshot wounds - she's told by her parents (Michael O'Keefe and Jennifer Westfeldt) that the police have confiscated her phone and that she's not allowed to watch television reports of the shooting. Though she denies having helped the gunman in any way, a police detective's (Tamara Tunie) interrogation brings up past encounters between the two.
As the teenager follows her instructions not to talk to the press about what happened in The Library, the shaken Ryan's (Daryl Sabara) description of the event spreads across national news unquestioned. Her friends have distanced themselves from her and those that do show compassion express disbelieving forgiveness, thinking she's just a frighten child protecting herself or that perhaps her brain has suppressed the memory of what really happened.
But when an article quotes her as saying she heard a voice that had previously been praying tell the gunman where the others were hiding and follows her statement with the name of a student, now dead, who was said to be leading others in prayer, it's misinterpreted as Caitlin laying blame on a student who is no longer alive to defend herself.
The dead girl becomes a national symbol of bravery and proceeds from a best-selling book about her (that quotes Ryan's account of Caitlin's actions) written by her mother (Lili Taylor) seed a charity in her name. Meanwhile, public sentiment against Caitlin threatens to ruin her family financially and a victim's foundation refuses to grant assistance unless she admits to having helped the killer.
Tightly constructed and economically written, Burns' plot-driven text only develops the characters with as much information as you might know from media accounts of the story. This is emphasized by Steven Soderbergh's simple staging on designer Riccardo Hernandez's sparse set, enhanced by David Lander's emotional lighting.
The Library slips a bit toward the end, with a conclusion that seems incomplete and a scene that leans toward the heavy-handed cliché of faith promoting closed-mindedness, but its depiction of a competitive media putting profit over accuracy and its effect on the public mindset isn't about to lose relevancy any time soon.