Film Review: The Fabelmans

This review is spoiler-free.

There is no doubt that Steven Spielberg is one of the finest filmmakers of all-time, and by his own admission, The Fabelmans is the most personal film he has ever made, taking inspiration from his own life and being semi-autobiographic. Thankfully, Spielberg has delivered again, bringing us a moving, entertaining film that is not just a family drama but a love letter to the art of filmmaking that will make you want to get out there and create something.

The Fabelmans follows young Sammy Fabelman (played by the brilliant Gabriel LaBelle as a teenager and Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord as child) at various stages in his life. He falls in love with films at an early age and is inspired to make films of his own, which he does whilst juggling and facing the trials and tribulations that come with a typical family life.

One of The Fabelmans biggest strengths is the fantastic cast. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano shine as Sammy’s parents Mitzi and Burt, one deeply supportive of Sammy’s passion for filmmaking, the other proud but skeptical about whether it can ever be more than a hobby, something that I believe will resonate with many people. I’m sure we’ve all had dreams, and it’s often the responses and support (or lack thereof) of those around us that will influence how we proceed in life. Family life and marriage always comes with an abundance of highs, lows, happiness and pressures and Williams and Dano nail every single aspect of these with their performances, it feels very raw and real, which helps to elevate the story. Stuck in the middle is of course, Sammy, the eldest of the Fabelman children who has a lot on his shoulders, but his safe space is behind the camera, creating, and this is where this film truly becomes magical.

Although I’ve never really been that interested in creating a film specifically, I am always fascinated by the process and I’ve always had a desire/dream to write and create something, The Fabelmans made me want to do this even more, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t elicit similar urges for you. When this film focuses on Sammy’s creative side, his imagination and passion for film, it’s magical. I can’t describe the feeling, but there was something akin to childhood joy when I watched these sequences unfold. Sammy does what he does for one reason and one reason only, love for the craft. He doesn’t want to be rich, he doesn’t want to be famous, he just wants to make films because he finds it magical and it makes him happy. As we all grow older and the realities of adulthood hit us, we sometimes forget to take time out for ourselves and do the things we want to do and I do think this film may inspire many to get out and rekindle a love for an old hobby, or perhaps take up a new one. One thing I took away from this is that I firmly believe Spielberg would still be making films today, even if he never made it big. It’s clear he loves the magic of cinema, and that love is infectious and conveyed beautifully throughout this story.

The Fabelmans succeeds on both levels, it’s a hard-hitting, relatable family drama whilst also being a joyous, magical exploration of filmmaking, the happiness it can bring and the impact it can have on so many lives. It isn’t afraid to delve into themes with a bit of darkness, but it always provides light and hope as well. Sure, it’s quite long and could have been tightened up a bit, but for a film this personal, you can understand why Spielberg may have been reluctant to leave certain things out. From a creative standpoint, it delivers on every level and it’s a testament to Spielberg that even this far in to his career, he’s still able to produce such high-quality entertainment. (It’s such a shame this film has bombed at the box office, I don’t quite understand why, but perhaps that’s a conversation for another day about the wider implications of the state of the industry today.)

I was thoroughly entertained, it made me very happy, it was inspiring, and it’s a film I would highly recommend.

I give The Fabelmans an 8.5/10.


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