‘The Fabelmans’ Is A Rare Gift That I Will Treasure Forever.

“You can’t just love something. You also have to take care of it.”

To communicate what Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’ has done for me is to say that it created a dreamer. A life dedicated to the movies and never once did it ever occur to me that filmmaking might be a reasonable path for me. What seemed like an unspeakable thought stored in someone I haven’t met quite yet started to creep its way into my head more and more until escaping it wasn’t an option. It was the wake-up call I have been waiting for all my life. Going to the movies and going from teary-eyed to properly emotional when the trailer for ‘The Fabelmans’ played. It was then that I knew that my life was heading somewhere new. Following a week-long catch-up at the movies, it ended in a double-feature consisting of Damien Chazelle’s ‘Babylon‘ and Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’. Truth be told, there were so many signs during this specific week that led me to believe that after this double feature, I would be ready to pick up a camera and start aimlessly dreaming. What I got instead was something much more meaningful, it got me to admit to myself that I want to actually do this and to take it as seriously as possible. I went back home that night almost grieving the road to my house, the view of the night sky from the front door and the stairs to my apartment. I had never felt so sure about anything else in my life and it was then that I understood what it means to take care of a dream.

major spoilers for ‘The Fabelmans’ are featured in this review.

Sitting down in that theatre waiting for the movie to start for the first time, there was this unfounded anxiety building up inside of me. As the movie started, it gradually began to fade away but for the first half, it was as if I was facing myself in a way and by default, my fears. It was as if I was seeing a version of my life unfold before my eyes on the big screen. Sammy Fabelman represents many of us. So many of these movies fill you up with this cinematic version of hope that is simply unattainable. It never sticks in the long term but there was this sense of belonging in that trailer that I was ready to fall into that trap again. I expected it to give me this expiring sense of ambition but what it gave me instead was acceptance and the necessary drive to fail and learn from my mistakes and get roughed up. That is exciting to me, that natural progression of a practised art and who better to get it from than Steven Spielberg. It is no surprise that ‘The Fabelmans’ has become one of my favourite movies ever. It’s a perfectly cast, perfectly written and perfectly structured masterpiece that shows the mark of a seasoned and experienced director who tells his story with as much heart and soul as possible.

Right from the opening scene, Spielberg transports us to this endearing and nostalgic world where a child’s first movie is treated as an event. It is truly remarkable how fast he gets us to feel attached to this family. From the charming excitement that Paul Dano exudes when his Burt explains how a motion picture works to the more emotionally driven Michelle Williams whose Mitzi exclaims that movies are dreams that you never forget. Already the scientists versus the artist debate is being subtly explored. Fast forward to Sammy not being able to sleep due to the overwhelming emotion that he retained from the film. It is all he can think about, he doesn’t know what to do with himself other than gain some form of control over it, a natural instinct for any film lover. It is incredibly endearing to see one of cinema’s greatest directors still get excited about this art form, replicate its excitement and how it feeds our souls. The contagious excitement of seeing Sammy filming stuff with his friends, being spontaneous and discovering new techniques, it’s awe-inspiring. He is constantly looking for ways to improve himself, it is all that consumes his mind. Even during the second half where he distances himself from filmmaking, he soon realizes that it’s not something he can just give up. Even amid the crushing weight of uncertainty during college, he never stopped sending letters. There is an initial surprise to be felt when the film ends the way that it does but it’s the only way this movie could have ended. No big rewarding finale with a boatload of lies but rather an important meeting that set Sammy and Steven up for life. That David Lynch appearance at the end there was truly the cherry on top. There is a sense of eagerness and invigoration that comes from talking to someone in the field that you want to work in and this movie perfectly captured that. I loved how the music transitioned into that whimsical score we know John Williams for and I loved the tongue-in-cheek moment where the camera shifts to put the horizon at the bottom. It’s such an effortlessly charming movie.

What I did not expect from ‘The Fabelmans’ is that I would get emotional for a completely different reason than what I had thought. Considering I got emotional during the trailer, I was prepared to be overwhelmed with the appreciation for cinema and while it was there, the familial aspects of the script did a lot more for me. One cannot exist without the other. It’s one of the main themes of the movie, family clashing with art. That haunting thought of capturing that raw emotion that his family’s expressing as he sees his parents announce their divorce right before him. It’s heartwrenching and all too real. Just like Sammy, I am in a very similar position with my family. There are scenes in this movie that feel ripped straight from my life. Most important, however, is the love between Mitzi and Sammy which resembles the immense love that I have for my own mother. She is the person I am most grateful for in this world and if it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be here talking about movies. She is the creative one in my family as well and she has always supported anything that I’ve done. She was the first one to see my drawings as a kid, the first one to taste my food as a teen and the biggest supporter of my writing as an adult. When I told her that I wanted to do this, to make movies, she looked me in the eyes and told me I can do anything that I set my mind to. The final scene with Sammy and his mom actually got me very emotional. To have faith in someone and to entrust it to them is something so special and truly crucial. It’s very fitting in fact, that, that is the last scene we see Mitzi in, she is encouraging Sammy to follow his heart no matter what.

Sitting at two and half hours, ‘The Fabelmans’ is quite a hefty watch but I never got bored at any given time. In fact, on both rewatches, it flew by. The pacing, script and presentation make for an endlessly entertaining and rewarding watch. I have seen the film three times at this point and each time, I pick up on something new. It’s truly remarkable just how much Spielberg loves to have that non-verbal communication with his audience. The revelation sequence where Sammy finds out about his mother’s affair is enthrallingly structured. The shot composition and it’s constantly changing nature keep it captivating and maintain the shock that the scene is meant to evoke. That 360-degree shot around Sam as he’s rewinding and researching the film reel didn’t need to be in there but it is and I am so grateful that it is. It’s the way information is presented in this movie that is truly admirable because more often than not, it doesn’t require dialogue. As Sammy is discovering this secret, Burt takes a break from his paperwork to admire Mitzi’s piano playing. As soon as Sammy gets the confirmation that he needs, he falls to the floor looking at his mother as if she’s someone unfamiliar. As Mitzi’s piano piece nears its end, Burt looks at her as if he is reminded of why he fell in love with her in the first place. The camera then pans up to Mitzi who looks at her husband and for the first time, the audience sees that there is a nuance to the way she looks at Burt. We, as an audience are now looking at Mitzi in a wholly different way. It’s mesmerizing to watch and admirable seeing just how much faith Spielberg has in the score, the framing and his actors to say so much without saying anything at all. The shots with Mitzi as Sammy’s films play for her have so much meat on their bones. When he shows her dancing, it’s as if she is seeing the person she’s always wanted to become. Later on, when she sees her affair on film, she goes from sweet reminiscing to suspicious to realizing the horrible truth. You can pinpoint the exact moment she realizes what is happening. The visible shock, heartbreak and devastation that her child is showing her that he knows and that’s why he’s been distant is as heartbreaking as it is mesmerizing to behold.

The sign of a great director is that everyone in the cast and crew shines and that couldn’t be any more accurate in the case of ‘The Fabelmans’. A perfectly cast movie that gets the most out of every actor. Gabriel LaBelle is fantastic as Sammy Fabelman. I believe it’s one of his first leading performances and he carries the movie with ease and confidence. A flawed character that you can’t help but love and root for. LaBelle’s effortless charm and comedic timing easily make him a winning lead. I think it’s already stated in this review just how much I love Michelle Williams’ performance. Paul Dano is terrific as well, his restrained and sound character allows him to do a lot more with his tone and physical behaviour. There is a lot to Burt and Dano brings it out perfectly. Two other standout cast members are Chloe East who plays Sammy’s devotedly religious girlfriend and Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord who plays an adorably young version of Sam in the opening scenes. Everyone in this movie really is perfectly cast, even down to the bullies played by Sam Rechner and Oakes Fegley, they have that perfect look for nostalgic, cliched school bullies and they play it perfectly. It even goes without saying that long-time Spielberg partner John Williams delivers a quietly sentimental score that compliments the film perfectly. Janusz Kamiński, the cinematographer, and another longtime partner of Spielberg creates some truly memorable shots. This was the type of movie where I would be actively aware of how the camera moved and make sense of everything it did and having that element of dissection was truly fun as a fan. The script, however, was truly the base of this movie and what Spielberg and Tony Kushner achieved with it is immeasurable. This is one of the most memorable scripts I’ve seen in a long time. There are lines in this movie that just stuck with you the moment they are spoken. It’s perfectly comedic when it needs to be, heartwrenching when it has to be and sentimental all throughout. It’s truly a perfect movie in my eyes.

In the future, when I am going to look back on what started it all for me, what convinced me to go out into the world of film, it’s going to be all because of this movie. Endlessly inspiring and devoted to the overwhelming power of cinema, ‘The Fabelmans’ understands the core of the artist. Spielberg infuses his undying excitement for filmmaking into this movie and it is incredibly contagious. It is very clear just how much he cares about this art form and to make this movie is not only an earned privilege but a well-deserved one. This is truly one of those movies that I will never forget. In a career spanning multiple decades, Spielberg should be immensely proud that he delivered one of his best works yet this late in his career. It has given me something so rare in value and so sparse in general. I will hold onto what this movie left me with for as long as possible and I’m gonna protect that feeling, that yearning and just like Sammy, I’m gonna do something about it. I truly don’t know if a movie has ever given me a greater gift. Thank you, Steven Spielberg.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

‘The Fabelmans’ is available for Pre-Order now.


2 thoughts on “‘The Fabelmans’ Is A Rare Gift That I Will Treasure Forever.

  1. grapefruitzzz says:

    Yes, me too. I will thank Sammy (Sam) when I win the short film award if I live long enough to learn enough. I dismissed the dream very early because it seemed to hard and I can’t organise well. But this is how I think and what I want to say. This film is the second half of the epiphany.
    Good luck! We are blessed to learn this.

    Liked by 1 person

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