The Fabelmans

The Fabelmans ★★★★½

Employs a careful understanding of the larger personal worth and sacrifices of filmmaking that more hollow "movies about movies" fail to recognize—here, movies aren't simply a saving grace or refuge or some surface-level fixation that distracts from the realities lurking just outside the frame. Here, the realities are always spilling into the frame, or spill into the moments Sammy is forced to decide what goes into the frame, or whether his realities and the implications of filmmaking impact whether he even feels compelled to cut together reels entirely. Spielberg, often reduced as a sentimentalist by his detractors, deploys a number of deft visual emotional complications in how he stages these sequences, creating a film that doesn't shy away from its probing into whether making movies is a form of selfishness or ruinous to the familial and interpersonal relationships that feed into what gets filmed and what makes a final cut. In one striking instance, Spielberg even interrogates the nagging feeling that witnessing real, immediate interpersonal conflict as a filmmaker is no more than acting as a detached observer, seeing yourself filming true hurt rather than processing the feelings and grief of the moment. Spielberg knows what good movies can bring, but he also knows just how much pain and hurt and strife and recalibrations of perspective need to be pushed through to shape them into what they are. After all, it's that emotional honesty in all its rawness that makes a movie all the more powerful.

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