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A beautifully sentimental Spielberg film

In 2022, the filmmakers decided it was time to do something personal and semi-autobiographical. James Gray did armageddon timeAlejandro G. Iñarritu makes Bardo, false chronicle of a handful of truthsand Sam Mendes is dating Empire of Light Later this year. But one of the most personal and gripping movies of the year comes in the form of Steven Spielberg. The Fabelmans. This is a coming-of-age drama about young Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), who aspires to be a filmmaker while growing up in a dysfunctional family. Spielberg’s first writing credit in more than 20 years turns out to be a charming delight, showcasing a semi-autobiographical tale in a beautiful way.

In the wake of their success West Side Story adaptation last year, Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner team up to tell a story based on Spielberg’s teenage years through a fictional lens. Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano) take their son to the movies to watch a screening of The greatest show on earth. As Mitzi says, “Movies are dreams you never forget.” From the first time Sammy Fabelman watched a movie, he knew he wanted to make movies. He was filming little trains banging together and watching them over and over again.

There is something magical about movies. Using 24 frames per second to tell a story is an art form like no other, and Spielberg is a master at his craft. No one could tell his story but him, and he does a phenomenal job with a screenplay filled with detail and a director’s voice complex enough to match. The Fabelmans is so personal at times that it feels like it’s trying to balance too many aspects of Spielberg’s life. However, the way the film manages to stay cohesive and investing throughout this coming-of-age story is remarkable, and it’s told with a characteristic Spielbergian flair.

LaBelle does a great job with the character, as does Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord playing a younger version of Sammy Fabelman. Williams has a lot of dramatic weight to work with, and she’s fantastic. Dano looks stunning in a much more low-key role from his work earlier this year in The Batman, and Seth Rogen once again proves just how talented he is as an actor when he’s not playing a variation of himself in a comedy movie. This cast works together to create a labor of love that comes off the screen.

The Fabelmans works so well in its moments of silence, using music and visuals instead of dialogue to tell its stories. This story is about the power of the movie and how Sammy uses it throughout. He uses film to create a narrative and shape the world in a way that speaks to his lens. This dramatic, multi-layered story makes effective use of film language, showing the different ways Sammy uses his gift of filmmaking for different purposes. The film’s well-written humor and a final shot that will leave you smiling are key to making it all work.

A film about the power and magic of cinema is the perfect film for Spielberg at this point in his career. It’s a movie that dares to remind you of the first movie you ever watched, then pushes it further to remind you of the movie that made you fall in love with movies. From the director who made several of these films, such as Jaws, AND the alien, IndianaJones, jurassic parkand now, The Fabelmansthe story of how it started is a story worth watching.

SCORE: 8/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equals “Excellent”. While there are a few minor issues, this score means the art hits its mark and leaves a memorable impact.


Disclosure: The critic attended a press screening for ComingSoon’s The Fabelmans exam.

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