Written and directed by Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans tells the story of Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), a young man in the 1950s who’s life is changed after his first experience in a cinema. Living with his parents (Michelle Williams and Paul Dano) and two sisters, Sammy pours his life into making movies of his own, becoming more intricate and elaborate as he grows up. However, after his family moves due to his father’s work, Sammy’s life slowly begins to unravel. Stresses from outside and within the home put pressure on the young man, leaving him to process his life through the lens of his camera.
Funny, heartfelt and powerful, The Fabelmans is the infectious tale of one man’s love of the arts and the passion he has to impact others through it. While LaBelle carries the film with a truly joyful performance as Sam, the entire cast is noteworthy. However, without question, the best performance lies with Judd Hirsch as Sam’s Uncle Boris. Despite the limited screen time, Hirsch is such a joy that one cannot imagine him to receive some recognition come Oscar season.
In a lot of ways, the film feels as close to an independent film as the director has ever made. Small in scale, Fabelmans has few special effects and doesn’t focus on any world-shattering events. Even so, as the personal tale of his own journey into filmmaking, the film is yet another stunning piece of wonder from the master himself. Like all of his work, the film is fueled by innocence but also willing to dig into the dark corners when needed. Tackling themes of anti-Semitism, marital infidelity and constant bullying, Spielberg does not shy away from the more painful details of his family history.
The Fabelmans is premiered at TIFF ’22.