Life At 24 Frames Per Second
The Fabelmans is Spielberg at his most personal
It's no big revelation to say that Steven Spielberg has incorporated his own childhood into his films. The breakup of family is a theme that has dominated films as varied as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Catch Me If You Can. But with The Fabelmans Spielberg uses his own childhood as the main inspiration for a story. What could easily be a self-indulgent bit of myth-making becomes a testament to the power of movies to both make our dreams come alive and process uncomfortable truths about life.
After young Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) attends his first movie screening, he becomes so obsessed with the beautiful (and sometimes frightening) imagery that he begins making his own movies using his parents' 8mm camera. As he grows older (now played by Gabriel LaBelle), this obsession leads him to make increasingly elaborate short films with his friends. However, behind the scenes, the relationship between his father the scientist (Paul Dano) and his mother the artist (a captivating Michelle Williams) begins to dissolve, changing the nature of Sammy's films and life.
It's no surprise that this film is a love letter to movies (that perfect marriage of science and art) and Spielberg's unwavering love for cinema is absolutely infectious. The simple but effective ways in which Sammy brings his creations to life have an undeniable charm. We also discover, with him, the filmmakers whose imagery impacted Spielberg's: from Cecil B. DeMille to John Ford and, yes, even Leni Riefenstahl. There are many doomsayers today lamenting the death of cinema, but for Spielberg, as long as dreams are alive, movies will be as well.
Directed by Steven Spielberg // Written by Spielberg and Tony Kushner // Starring Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogan, Jeannie Berlin, Julia Butters, Robin Bartlett, Sam Rechner, Keeley Karsten, Oakes Fegley, Chloe East, Isabelle Kusman, Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch // 151 minutes // Rated PG-13 // Universal