Movie Review: The Fabelmans

Review by: Alisha Verma

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Rating: 3.5/5 

After exploring everything from dinosaurs to extraterrestrials, Spielberg has finally turned the camera on himself. In The Fabelmans, we follow the semi-autobiographical tale of Sammy Fabelman’s growing love for film set against the backdrop of his crumbling family life. 

From the second he sees his first movie, his ice-blue eyes fixated to the silver screen, mouth slightly open in awe, it is easy to tell young Sammy has found his calling. Shots of the young filmmaker directing his amateur films with his friends, hunching over a desk splicing together film and, geeking out over equipment, are heartwarming. It’s moments like these, where Sammy is so utterly entranced in his passion, that the movie soars. 

It’s this love of filmmaking that leads Sammy to a startling truth about his family, fueling the film’s main conflict. These emotional moments are anchored wonderfully thanks to the film’s stellar central cast, featuring the brilliant Gabriel LaBelle as the driven Sammy, Michelle Williams as his charismatic, yet troubled mother, and Paul Dano as his brainy father. No character outshines the other, with the exuberant Williams leveling out the more analytical Dano, yet both never outdoing the equally vibrant LaBelle, who holds his own against his A-list co-stars. 

The film’s early-mid 60s backdrop is wonderfully crafted by Spielberg’s collaborators. Each scene is steeped in 60s Americana, with rock ‘n’ roll peppered throughout John Williams’ score, and lush cinematography from Janusz Kamiński, who bathes the film in warm hues reminiscent of technicolor blockbusters of the era. Mark Bridges’ costume design is another high, its boxy silhouettes and neutral tones imbuing in the movie just the right amount of nostalgia that’s sweet but not overly sentimental. 

However, The Fabelmans falters during its most touching moments due to screenwriters Spielberg’s and Tony Kushner’s often heavy-handed writing. Otherwise heartfelt scenes are cut by a glaring lack of subtlety, ridding you of any real emotional reaction. Despite a few humorous moments, the overbearing writing can only go so far before it becomes downright annoying. 
The Fabelmans at its core is a heartfelt love letter to artists everywhere. Despite its faults, it’s Spielberg’s pure passion at the movie’s center that provides the film with enough heart to keep it afloat.