Persistence of Vision

The Fabelmans

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, Gabriel LaBelle, Julia Butters, Mateo Zoryan, Julia Butters, Sam Rechner, Oakes Fegley

Running Time: 2 hours 31 minutes

Film Rating: 9 out of 10

Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan) makes his most personal film by far, with the critically acclaimed film The Fabelmans which won the People’s Choice Award at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), a sure indicator of multi Oscar nominations.

The Fabelmans is a fictional account of Spielberg’s childhood and his idyllic love of cinema and focuses on a boy Sammy Fabelman brilliantly played respectively by Mateo Zoryan as a young boy and Gabriel LaBelle as the teenager and wisecracking Jewish kid who turns his hobby of filmmaking into a career choice.

With an excellent script by Tony Kushner (Munich, Lincoln), The Fabelmans focuses on a Jewish family in America in the 1950’s and 1960’s starting in New Jersey and moving across the country first to Arizona and then finally to California. Sammy’s parents Burt and Mitzi Fabelman are played by Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, 12 Years a Slave, There will be Blood) and four time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, My Week with Marilyn, Manchester by the Sea).

Michelle Williams finally deserves an Oscar for her complex portrayal of Mitzi Fabelman a slightly off kilter but talented mother who will do anything for Sammy and his three sisters but is willing to risk everything for true love.

Williams’s performance is mesmerizing in The Fabelmans and she creates the emotional centre for this film, particularly in the superbly acted scenes between Mitzi and her son Sammy as he negotiates adolescence and discovers a secret about his mother which will rip his family apart.

In between all the family drama, there is Sammy’s persistent love of cinema and his dedicated desire to film everything and in the end does capture every moment even the scenes that are not meant to be filmed. Even at high school besides being terrorized for being the only Jewish boy at a predominantly Christian school in Northern California he even films the Ditch Day at the Beach and makes one of his archenemies and school jock Logan Hall played by rising star Sam Rechner uncomfortable when he sees himself on screen.

Audiences should watch out for a superb cameo by veteran actor Judd Hirsch as Uncle Boris who influences young Sammy into following his dreams of becoming a film maker.

With superb cinematography by Spielberg regular and Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan) and excellent ensemble acting, The Fabelmans is a love letter to traditional cinema, to the art of film making while effortlessly exploring serious issues including anti-Semitism, infidelity and mental health.

The Fabelmans is a top class film: elegant, nostalgic and perfectly acted. Highly recommended viewing, this excellent film gets a film rating of 9 out of 10 and signifies Spielberg’s undisputed persistence of vision as a top calibre film director.

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