The Fabelmans (2022)

If you’re at all familiar with Steven Spielberg’s life story and how he related to his family, then “The Fabelmans” has been a long time coming. As someone who read his biography, it’s interesting to explore Spielberg’s home life and how his relationship with his father and mother ultimately crafted who he’d become not just as a man but as a filmmaker. While “The Fabelmans” suffers from being a tad schmaltzy here and there, it’s a worthwhile and engaging drama about family, and how film as a medium can help us view life as we’ve never seen it before. 

Young Sammy Fabelman falls in love with movies after his parents take him to see “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Armed with a camera, Sammy starts to make his own films at home, much to the delight of his supportive mother Mitzi. Sammy is a young man whose approach toward film is initially cynical, but like Spielberg, his entire life changes after viewing “The Greatest Show on Earth.” While there are some names and family dynamics changed, “The Fabelmans” wears its intention on its sleeve. It’s unabashedly an autobiography of Steven Spielberg that covers the basics of his childhood.

It chronicles everything from his relationship with his sisters, his discovery of the love for filmmaking, his exploration of the art of storytelling, and his parents’ uneasy relationship that led to their divorce. Much of “The Fabelmans” follows Sammy throughout his childhood and as he grows in to a young man whose love for film inevitably intertwines with the reality of his home life. There’s a surefire catharsis happening for Spielberg, who places a lot of importance on the realm of filmmaking, and he uses it to reveal the more vulnerable sides of Sammy Fabelman’s life. Spielberg places a lot of significance and value on filmmaking, as Sammy is a young boy who is very idealistic.

But once he dives head first in to filmmaking he sees moments of his life that open his eyes, and allow him to come to terms with truths he’d never noticed. Or perhaps truths that he’d never wanted to notice. Through and through there’s a sadness behind “The Fabelmans” even when the film is celebrating Sammy’s love for making movies. A lot of the process is used by Sammy as a means of distancing himself from his home life, and confronting hardships. This becomes especially true when he moves with his family, and becomes the victim of a group of anti-Semitic high school bullies. The performances all around are enormous, especially by Michelle Williams who is superb as Sammy’s mother. All the while Paul Dano is memorable as Sammy’s quietly suffering father Burt.

Star Gabriel LaBelle has a large responsibility to bring Sammy Fabelman to life, and he takes on the task beautifully with a competent and memorable performance. “The Fabelmans” is easily one of my favorite movies of 2022; it’s a love letter to the importance of movies, and the joy and pain that family can offer us.