The Fabelmans: Spielberg at the peak of his powers


Sammy Fabelman getting the shot (Photo courtesy Universal Pictures)

Isaac Hinson, Columnist

One year removed from his masterful re-imagining of “West Side Story,” legendary Director Steven Spielberg returns with a deeply personal story about his childhood, how he grew to love movies and the turmoil that came with his parents’ relationship and looming divorce. 

Spielberg says the film has been a dream project of his for over 20 years, but out of fear of hurting either of his parents with their portrayals, he waited until they had both passed to begin development. 

For his entire career, Spielberg has let aspects of his youth and his connection (or lack thereof) to his parents seep through into his movies. Notably, in “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” the missing father-figure is a major element of the emotional strings that tie the movie together. 

Seeing the decades of those themes materialize in their full form was well worth the wait. The film is amazing, and one of my favorites of 2022. The film is full of so much intent that you can truly tell it has been bouncing around in Spielberg’s mind for years.

Gabriel LaBelle plays Sammy Fabelman, a young and inspired filmmaker who struggles with his parents’ differing enthusiasm about his passion, while tackling a life-altering revelation about their relationship and the strain it puts on the family. 

LaBelle’s performance is phenomenal. He enriches the film with a hopefulness and eagerness that is pulled away and brought back in a way that can feel gut-punching at times. 

Spielberg doesn’t shy away from the harrowing moments of being a child-of-divorce. Not only in the situations that involve his parents but also in how it affects day-to-day life, relationships and mental health. LaBelle perfectly captures the fear of abandonment and the need to impress that comes with divorce. 

Paul Dano and Michelle Williams play Burt and Mitzi Fabelman respectively, representing his father and mother. Both give fantastic performances, but Williams brings her all as Mitzi. She’s given the impossible task of being the backbone of the emotional weight of this film, with nearly every single emotional thread tracing back to her character in one way or another. 

Spielberg reunites with “Schindler’s List” and “West Side Story” cinematographer Janusz Kamiński here, and he delivers once again. Every move the camera makes is incredibly intentional, every shot is loaded with emotion. 

For the most part, this review has been focused on the gloom of the story but there is a lot here for the warmer of hearts as well. Sammy’s filmmaking endeavors are incredibly endearing to watch and when things are going well for his character, the movie reflects that and shifts to a far lighter tone. 

This was one of the best films of 2022. It’s stuffed with incredible performances, and Spielberg is at the top of his game. The film won ‘Best Motion Picture Drama’ at the Golden Globe Awards and will certainly be in-play for various Academy Awards, including Best Picture. 

Spielberg could retire after this with a perfect bow on the top of his career. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like that will be the case, but it would’ve been perfectly sentimental. 

“The Fabelmans” is available for digital purchase and will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray and DVD on Feb. 14.