The Reel Review


A young boy with dreams of becoming a filmmaker harnesses the power of his art to help him find his voice after learning a shattering family secret, in this fictionalized drama co-written and directed by Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg and very heavily based on his own youth.

Mateo Zoryan and Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans

What a cathartic thing to exorcise one of your deepest family secrets on the big screen. That is exactly what Spielberg does in this poignant, autobiographical drama that is fiction in name only. Nearly everything in The Fabelmans happened to the Spielbergs. It is a deeply personal love letter – to his family, to any child of divorce, and to the creators of art (and science) among us who understand the cost and power of their beloved passion.

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

It should probably come as no surprise that the legendary filmmaker turns what could have been a tedious vanity project about his own upbringing into a highly relatable and fascinating journey. Gabriel LaBelle (American Gigolo) gives an impressive, lived-in portrait of the young film prodigy who discovers all too well that the camera reveals everything, with Paul Dano (The Batman, Prisoners) and Seth Rogen (Neighbors, Long Shot) as his father and family friend, Benny. But it is Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea, Brokeback Mountain) who is the heart of the film, as the unconventional mother who sacrificed her own career as a concert pianist to raise a family. Her nuanced performance is authentic and deeply touching. Oscar is calling.


• Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner decided to write the screenplay for The Fabelmans during the COVID pandemic, while his schedule was clear. The Fabelmans is Steven Spielberg’s first screenwriting credit since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

1950 photo of Steven Spielberg, then 4, with parents Leah and Arnold

• Steven Spielberg says he had envisioned Michelle Williams as Mitzi, the character inspired by his mother, ever since he saw her in 2010’s Blue Valentine. Some of the jewelry she wears in the film belonged to Spielberg’s mother, Leah.

1989 photo of Arnold Spielberg, Leah Adler and their son Steven

• Steven Spielberg says his parents again became very close friends after their respective second spouses each died, frequently prodding Steven about doing a movie about their life prior to their deaths – Leah in 2017 at age 97, and Arnold in 2020, at age 103.


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