The Fabelmans is smooth moving and flawlessly paced, feeling emotional and important in every frame.
WRITTEN BY BECCA JOHNSON / DECEMBER 20, 2022
Steven Spielberg; a director everybody has heard of. From iconic blockbusters like Jaws, Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark, to much-loved family films including Ready Player One, The Adventures of Tintin and Hook. In his impressive catalogue, there is something for everyone, and his talent is undeniable. This time around, we get something a little more introspective; The Fabelmans is a film about films, film-making and the impact film can have. It's also about family, coming-of-age and how hobbies can be used as an escape from the real world. In this semi-autobiographical movie, we follow Sammy Fabelman as he discovers his love for film-making, whilst uncovering a shattering family secret.
The Fabelmans has a script that balances its tones perfectly, giving us an equal slice of family drama, film-making and coming-of-age. We learn the story of the Fabelman family through the eyes of Sammy, whom we follow from childhood to young adulthood. We attend his first ever cinema trip with him and see how the moving pictures take hold of his mind, we see him film his first ever picture, and we see him develop his skills to an exceptional standard for his age as he gets more confident behind the camera. The movie pays homage to how truly wonderful the art of film-making is, which is bound to resonate with the film fans that are viewing it.
Although Sammy finds solace in his love for cinema, it's hard to ignore what is going on around him; through his lens, we uncover something that changes the trajectory of his life and view of the world forever. This makes the movie transform beautifully into a coming-of-age story similar to those we are used to, yet still feeling unique with it's introspective feel and film-making theme. He battles right from wrong, first love, family breakdown, bullying, all whilst honing in on his skills and trying to make his dream become a reality. The Fabelmans is smooth moving and flawlessly paced, feeling emotional and important in every frame.
What really gives The Fabelmans it's edge, despite it's story and direction, is it's stellar performances. In the star-making role of Sammy Fabelman is Gabriel LaBelle, who gives an incredibly intimate and emotional performance. He is believable from start to finish, showing huge understanding for both his characters love for film-making and the internal battles he fights. In the Father role as Burt Fabelman is Paul Dano, who is as impressive as ever. He puts a lot of pressure on his son, yet also supports him in his venture whilst teaching him that family is important and should come first. Stealing the entire show, however, is Michelle Williams in her career best performance as Mitzi Fabelman. She may not be the most likeable at times, but she acts so gorgeously and encapsulates you every time she is on screen. Every movement she makes is gracious, every word spoken packs emotion and every look says a thousand words. This is the best she has ever been.
Tying everything together in an extraordinarily neat bow is the cinematography. When making a movie largely based on being behind the camera, it's almost expected that everything happening in front of it will be well crafted, but it somehow still manages to exceed expectations. Every shot is meticulously crafted from beginning to end, with the final shot being one of the most memorable of the year. Everything is framed nicely, the lighting is exceptional and frequent Spielberg collaborator, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski dominates the screen with his talent yet again, utilising familiar shots in an artistic and imaginative way.
The Fabelmans is a movie made by a film lover, for film lovers. It's admiration for the craft is it's best asset, yet it's exploration into family is just as well done and has much to say. It also gives us some of the best performances and cinematography of the year, creating a worthwhile addition to Spielberg's impressive filmography. It is touching and emotional, with perhaps the most intimate script yet from Spielberg. If anyone can get away with making a semi-autobiographical movie about their love of film-making, it's him.