The Fabelmans Review: A Very Long Love Letter To Filmmaking

The Fabelmans is an overly long love letter to the concept of filmmaking and how creatives tend to put so much of themselves into the works that they end up putting out into the world.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Summary: Growing up in post-World War II era Arizona, young Sammy Fabelman aspires to become a filmmaker as he reaches adolescence, but soon discovers a shattering family secret and explores how the power of films can help him see the truth.

The Fablemans Review: A Very Long Lov
The Fabelmans Poster © Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The Fabelmans And Loving Film As A Medium

It's been clear for many years that director Steven Spielberg just loves movies and loves making them at the end of the day. The Fabelmans isn't even the first movie that Spielberg has made where this could be the running theme; only this one didn't involve a monster. The film is being called "semi-autobiographical," and the picture's truth can be felt throughout the entire movie. Spielberg loves cinema, and his love for the medium is baked into every facet of The Fabelmans from start to finish. However, we aren't just seeing the good parts of being a creative and falling in love with a medium. The reality of being a creative and a filmmaker and how it can change your life in a good and bad way is explored throughout the entire film. The emotions that are explored here, the disconnect from family and losing yourself to your craft while everything else falls apart around you, are painfully honest.

That's the thing about being a creative and one of the reasons why they are so often shown as tortured: it can tear you up inside if you let it, and sometimes you can't even win. The film looks you dead in the eye and tells you it can tear you apart whether you decide to pursue that dream or not. The scene where we see Sammy seeing himself filming his parents announcing their divorce as a disconnected third-party hurts to watch. There is truth in film, and sometimes that truth contains things that you don't want to see. While you might want to make some fun western or war movies, the truth that comes to the surface throughout the creative process can be the thing that hurts you the most. The Fabelmans might be one of the most honest portrayals of how much being a creative can impact you from a very young age if you find the creative oulet you connect with. It will save your life just as much as it will make every day a little bit harder.

The Fabelmans Review: A Very Long Love Letter To Filmmaking
Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy Fabelman in The Fabelmans, co-written, produced, and directed by Steven Spielberg. Byline: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment © Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Spielberg At His Most Honest Is Always Captivating

Spielberg, at this stage of his career, is one of the greatest directors to ever live, and his autopilot is better than most people's best work. The Fabelmans is far from Spielberg on autopilot; this is very much a labor of love. It is a movie about filmmaking, so the idea of filmmaking is front and center, and we get a look at how that worked in the post-World War II era. However, Spielberg also gets in plenty of amazing directing here as he directs someone who is directing. He captures the chaos of being the guy in the middle of the pretend war scene, trying to get the right shot. He makes sure that you understand the emotional toll it can take to draw performances out of actors. There isn't a frame of this film that isn't beautiful because you can tell that it was made by someone completely enraptured by the process of creating. It's a crowdpleaser of the kind where the audience leaves feeling like they just witnessed something beautiful because they did.

That said, one of the problems with labors of love is that it can be hard to edit them. The Fabelmans clocks in at an impressive two hours and thirty-one minutes. Even so, the pacing of the film makes the middle feel a little longer than you thought it would be. The ending, while incredible, also feels abrupt but not in a bad way. However, because this is an honest film about life, the structure feels off at times, making it feel even longer. There are not many films that justify a runtime as long as this one, and while Spielberg is the best and this film is really good, there are moments that feel like they could have been clipped to make it a little shorter.

The Fabelmans Review: A Very Long Love Letter To Filmmaking
(from left) Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), Younger Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord), and Mitzi Fabelman (Michelle Williams) in The Fabelmans, co-written, produced and directed by Steven Spielberg. Byline: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment © Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The actors are putting in career-best performances across the board, but the movie really rests on the shoulders of Paul Dano and Michelle Williams. They are both more than capable of carrying the weight, and these aren't easy parts for them to play. Their relationship and where it ultimately ends up is another aspect of the film that feels honest. Sometimes, things don't work out in the end. Sometimes, people in love just don't end up staying together, even if it seems like the right thing to do for the family. Parents make selfish choices for the sake of their own happiness at times, even though society looks down on them for it. Dano and Williams play these complicated roles so well and they get back up from Seth Rogan kicking in the door and telling everyone that he can do dramatic roles.

The Fabelmans is exactly what you expect from the awards season, but it's the sort of awards season movie that actually appeals to a wide audience. If you love movies, then you'll probably love this film, because it also loves movies. If you're a creative, you'll relate to the emotional tug of war we are witnessing on screen. It's just a little long, so make sure you get a spot with a comfortable chair because you're in for a long haul that is quite lovely to watch. The final scene might be one of the best of the entire year, not to mention the best use of David Lynch possibly ever.

The Fabelmans

The Fabelmans Review: A Very Long Love Letter To Filmmaking
Review by Kaitlyn Booth

8.5/10
The Fabelmans is an overly long love letter to the concept of filmmaking and how creatives tend to put so much of themselves into the works that they end up putting out into the world.

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About Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on Twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on Instagram.
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