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Steven Spielberg's 'The Fabelmans' is a lover letter to the movie industry

Film review: The Fabelmans (12A) – seen at The Light Cinema, Wisbech

Starring: Michelle Williams, Gabriel LaBelle, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen and Chloe East

Running time: 2hrs 31mins Director: Steven Spielberg

The Fablemans (62031842)
The Fablemans (62031842)

Sometimes you enjoy a film and then, after leaving the cinema, never think of it again. This is usually my reaction every time I watch a superhero flick with my son.

On rare occasions, the opposite happens. You think you didn’t enjoy a film, but over the ensuing hours and days, it stays with you, parts of it are replayed in your mind and you realise that, actually, it was pretty good after all.

And that’s my reaction to this biopic, which tells the story of the formative years of movie genius Steven Spielberg and his family.

But don’t expect anything along the lines of Jaws, ET, Saving Private Ryan or War Horse, this is a slow-burning, deeply personal story about the trials and tribulations of family life, and of growing up. And a couple of days after seeing it, I’m left with feelings of warmth and comfort.

The story centres around young Sammy Fabelman (played by Gabriel LaBelle), who aspires to become a film maker in post-World War II Arizona.

Sammy’s dream is ignited after seeing a train crash while watching his first ever moving picture as a small boy – and much of the rest of the film is played out in his own home movies.

It’s a love letter to the movie industry, but Spielberg doesn’t sugar coat his upbringing, showing the warts and all story of the infidelity of his loving but still sometimes distant mother (Michelle Williams) and the emotional shortcomings of his caring but weak father (Paul Dano).

And when a work promotion for said father means a move to California, where Jewish families such as the Fabelmans are very much the minority, teenage Sam encounters racist school bullies before falling for God-fearing Monica (Chloe East).

Canadian/American actor LaBelle is great as young Sammy, bring an endearing and likeable awkwardness to the role, whereas Williams and Dano nail their roles to perfection.

Seth Rogan is impressive too as family friend Bennie, and Chloe East really lights up the screen as Sammy’s girlfriend Monica.

I am surprised the film has been received quite as well as it has, with plenty of Oscar nominations, but I’m also pleased I let it grow on me. It’s worth a watch.

By Jeremy Ransome

Rating: 7/10

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