It's 1952 and a young Sammy's (Gabriel LaBelle) parents have taken him to a showing of Cecil B DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth. While unconvinced at first, the film has a lasting effect on Sammy who is especially taken by one of the film's most horrifying sequences.
In his most personal film yet, Steven Spielberg weaves a love letter to cinema. The Fabelmans, co-written by Spielberg with Tony Kushner, is a semi-autobiographical film about how the filmmaker came to find his true passion.
The film might not be Spielberg's best but it's still cinematically mesmerising.
The colours and characters pull a viewer in, creating an atmosphere of tranquility that could take some getting used to. Every scene is structured to say something, relying on drama and the subtleties of human emotion.
Sammy’s mother Mitzi, played by an inimitable Michelle Williams, is a talented pianist who could’ve made it big but chose instead to stay home and take care of her kids. She is Sammy’s biggest champion – supporting his dream even as hers were thwarted.
His father Burt (Paul Dano) is a genius – he sees a potential in technology that those around him haven’t caught up to and channels that intuition to making wondrous machines. Dano takes up the role with a boy-next-door charm.
Gabriel LaBelle is charming on screen and looks amazingly awe-struck by his own art and that makes it near impossible to not buy into the story he's narrating.
Following Sammy’s journey, the viewer gets a glimpse into the influences that helped his career and also the hurdles he faced along the way including the anti-Semitism he faced in his college years.
Over time, one can see why Sammy’s (or Spielberg’s) cinema is known for its escapism. Sammy often uses films to transport himself and those around him to a place outside of their circumstances.
Due to his life's experiences, Sammy learns the basic rules of cinema and editing – the camera tells the story the director wants to and some things are better left out from the final cut. And it's mesmerising to watch the protagonist go through this journey through the films he makes.
The film also does a commendable job at exploring the idea of grief and the act of being 'selfish' in a family.
Sammy being selfish comes from a desire to focus on his dream but his mother being selfish rises from a need to not lose herself.
After films like E.T, Schindler's List, and Saving Private Ryan, the artist perhaps deserved to create a piece that is more personal than based on expertise. In that, the film succeeds and is a love letter, read by the writer himself.