TIFF ’22: The Fabelmans

I have been a Spielberg fan for as long as I can remember. The first film he saw was The Greatest Show On Earth, which affected him. Mine was Jaws, and I can say the same thing. Over the decades I have followed him on his storytelling journey, embracing each new film that came along, delighting in his craft and abilities.

I’ve read biographies and ‘making of’ books to understand a bit more about the man behind the camera. With his new film, The Fabelmans, Spielberg himself draws back the curtain and gives his most intimate and personal film yet, and while there is fiction added to the mix, this one allows Spielberg to open up about his youth, and his formative years growing up in Arizona and California.

A recurring theme in a number of Spielberg films is the broken family, dealing with divorce, and strong female matriarchs, and we see where that came from as Michelle Williams brings Mitzi Fabelman to life.

Mitzi is married to Burt (Paul Dano), who loves her unquestioningly and wholeheartedly, but both of them turn to Bennie (Seth Rogen) for friendship. Young Sam Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle – who has Spielberg down, poses, stature) is a creative type like his mother, and when he’s introduced to film, and then a camera, he seems unstoppable.

What follows is a beautiful coming-of-age tale that brings laughter and tears as the Fabelmans navigate the difficult waters of family, relationships, and a blossoming filmmaker who doesn’t miss a trick, which brings a family secret into the light.

Beautifully shot by Janusz Kaminski, edited by Michael Kahn, and scored, of course, by John Williams, this is perhaps the best Spielberg has ever done because it is his most personal. From the ‘torturing’ of his sisters to capture a scene to shooting his war film ‘Escape to Nowhere,’ this is Spielberg opening and sharing who he is, commenting on family and love.

It should come as no surprise that he had his hand in the script (the first since A.I. – Artificial Intelligence), penning it with the help of Tony Kushner. Spielberg intentionally blurs the line between fact and fiction, while being as honest as he can to who he is, and where he came from.

It shows how powerful cinema can be, and how one image can affect you forever, shaping all that follows.

The Fabelmans opens in November, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be seeing it again then. It’s a film for families, those that love movies or movie-makers. I’m delighted to know that here, almost fifty years after I first saw Jaws, Spielberg remains my favourite director and that his tales continue to elicit laughter, smiles and tears.

Loved this film!

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