The Fabelmans (2022)

The Fabelmans (2022)

2022 PG-13 151 Minutes

Drama | History

Growing up in post-World War II era Arizona, young Sammy Fabelman aspires to become a filmmaker as he reaches adolescence, but soon discovers a shattering family secret and explores how the power o...

Overall Rating

8 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • WHAT I LIKED: Steven Spielberg has always been fascinated by the innocence and insightfulness of children, so a film about his own coming of age was always going to be brilliant, but there's more to 'The Fabelmans,' than just that.

    It starts with his impactful first trip to the cinema and his subsequent obsession with capturing emotions on film, and throughout the film he (Gabriel LaBelle) brilliantly becomes an observer of the turmoils and insecurities of those around him. His mother's (Michelle Williams) mental health problems. His father's (Paul Dano) struggle to deal with that and her subsequent affair. The popular jock's (Sam Rechner) anger and struggle to fit in. These are all things that we empathise with through his young eyes, and the fact the film is autobiographical adds an extra layer to that as you know everything is being pieced together from his own memories. That alone proves how much kids see and hang onto, and it's only emphasised by the way Spielberg's camera - both in and on the film - focuses on the adult faces to examine every facet of their emotions.

    That compelling character study is made all the more engaging by the performances too, as everyone brings their a-game showing what they're feeling not through dialogue and explanation, but through body language and small looks and expressions that the young Spielberg captures and mulls over.

    But in the end, one particular character's reaction to their portrayal makes a fascinating point about how film can be exploitative and manipulative, and yet how it can also be a tool for empathy between the viewers. That's a powerful thing that could easily read as a
    justification for Spielberg's own sentimental work, and the fact it's wrapped up in such a fascinating, personal coming of age story about a boy who holds that medium in his hands makes for a truly revelatory film from the now 76-year-old that we see on screen.

    WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: There are moments that could have been cut that would not have detracted from the characters or themes, but that's hardly surprising given that they're all probably sacred to Spielberg.

    VERDICT: As a film not only about how much kids see and remember, but about how film can be a tool for both manipulation and empathy, 'The Fabelmans,' reads as Spielberg's thematic manifesto.