Time: 151 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language
Gabriel LaBelle as Samuel “Sammy” Fabelman
Michelle Williams as Mitzi Schildkraut-Fabelman
Paul Dano as Burt Fabelman
Seth Rogen as Bennie Loewy
Judd Hirsch as Boris Schildkraut
Director: Steven Spielberg
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.
The Fabelmans is Steven Spielberg’s latest film; I knew of it starring Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, and it would be a semi autobiography about his own life growing up. Even though it was Spielberg and he delivers consistently solid movies, I didn’t know how I would be finding this one. Coming of age stories for the most part don’t do anything for me, and I was a little over “love letters to cinema”, which the film looked like it was going for. The Fabelmans however ended up as one of my favourite movies of 2022.
The script from Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner is clever and well written. As to be expected, The Fabelmans is clearly deeply personal to Spielberg and feels like a reflection on his life, very heartfelt and with a real vulnerability to it. Effectively, its part family drama and part coming of age story. As expected going in, it is a love letter to movies, with protagonist Sammy Fabelman having a childhood which centred around falling in love with cinema and filmmaking. The movie portrays the inspiring nature and passion of filmmaking, as well as the pursuit of fulfilling one’s dreams. The Fabelmans does more than just showing “the power of cinema”, by highlighting the cost and sacrifice that comes with pursuing that dream. Spielberg recreates his childhood memories and presents the personal struggles within a dysfunctional family life. The movie serves as a love letter to his family, as he looks back on his childhood with bittersweet nostalgia. In fact, the movie is at its strongest when it is focussing on the family dynamics. The whole movie also feels very authentic; it easily could’ve been self-indulgent or an ego trip, given that Spielberg is making a movie about himself being interested to become a filmmaker when he was younger. However, it is genuine and compelling throughout. There’s a lot of depth to it, and its earnest and touching. It jumps between various tones, there are plenty of moments of levity, and overall, it felt like a very complete story. Honestly, there’s a lot to like here even if you’ve never heard of Steven Spielberg or aren’t as passionate about cinema. However, I can definitely see aspiring filmmakers connecting with a lot of the movie.
The actors are all amazing in their parts. Gabriel LaBelle plays the lead role of Sammy Fabelman and he’s fantastic and believable. While Sammy is clearly modelled on a much younger Steven Spielberg, he is a great character. We are emotionally invested in his journey, and LaBelle holds his own against the older actors. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano play his parents and are equally stellar, delivering some of the best performances of their careers. Seth Rogen is great and memorable in a supporting role, and Judd Hirsch is good in a smaller role. Other supporting actors like Julia Butters and Chloe East are also good, while David Lynch is incredibly memorable in a cameo appearance.
Unsurprisingly, Steven Spielberg’s direction is as strong as ever. Everything from Janusz Kaminski’s stunning cinematography to the editing and John Williams’s solid score was top notch, and I think its safe to call The Fabelmans one of the best crafted films of 2022.
The Fabelmans is an intimate, personal, and earnest film and love letter to cinema and family. It is directed to perfection by Steven Spielberg and has excellent performances from everyone, especially Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams and Paul Dano. It’s one of 2022’s best, and one of Spielberg’s best.