Explore joy and talent in “The Fablemans” 

Published 11:38 am Tuesday, April 4, 2023

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Beautifully illuminating the screen this week is “The Fablemans,” a moving and artfully crafted tale of childhood, family and the pursuit of fulfillment, both artistically and emotionally. 


“The Fablemans” is the latest film from one of Hollywood’s living legends, Steven Spielberg, who reminds us once again that he is the master of making the arts accessible. Spielberg’s talent for balancing emotional intimacy and awe, both in clear and communicative camerawork, shines in this film. The film is a creatively imagined autobiography of Spielberg, though the names, characters and events of the film are not an exact translation of Spielberg’s life. Rather, the characters and story are a fictionalized re-telling of Spielberg’s story, an interweaving of the very real emotional dynamics of his influences and formative experiences with a more cinematic narrative.

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The titular Fablemans family are the focus of the film, following their lives over nearly a decade from the early 50s to the early 60s, exploring the nature of familial dynamics as they grow and change over time. While the Fableman parents are important and realized characters in their own right, the story ultimately belongs to Sammy Fableman, a young boy whose life is forever changed by an exposure to film at an early age. Sammy is a bright boy, pulled in separate directions by his parent’s respective brilliance: his father’s scientific mind, and his mother’s artistic one.


The film does not waste effort in attempting to contain the scope of a decade’s passing, but rather focuses on key emotional scenes as the waypoints through time, giving these isolated moments space to breathe and resonate. Many of these selected scenes focus on Sammy’s budding talent with a camera. Sammy’s fascination with consuming film becomes a passion for making them, and the growing shape of his innate skill becomes the lens (pun intended) through which he explores and makes sense of the world.


Like his fictional stand-in Sammy, Spielberg is a natural filmmaker, not just in terms of his early talent for it, but more so for the way in which his artistic impulses never feel like indulgences. He utilizes brilliant cinematography and impeccable staging to simultaneously hide the artifice of his techniques while enriching their effectiveness. The narrative and emotional strokes of the film are clear without being telegraphed, while the cinematography is enrapturing without being performative. “The Fablemans” is a beautiful film, both visually and thematically, but one that is remarkably accessible. 


Every filmgoer can relate to stories of youth. There is a universal quality to the appeal of revisiting our formative years, even through the lens of another’s. We all remember and crave the potential of youth, the excitement of having a long life to be lived, but not yet defined. “The Fablemans” gives us all an opportunity to indulge in these emotions once again, if only for a moment. We hope to share this experience with you!