Review: Steven Spielberg comes close to a personal best in his luminous ‘The Fabelmans’
The director has been hailed (or denounced) for his artful use of the medium
Steven Spielberg has always been interested in the human experience and we find a similar quality in The Fabelmans, his second film, a movie that is both a love letter to his own films and to the world’s best documentary films. What he does differently is to let the audience live in the lives of those he has filmed. He is a master of the moving image, and a master, too, of the moving image. The Fabelmans is a movie that is an attempt, through his camera, to record the experience of people—some of whom he has known and knows—to a greater degree than ever before.
He begins the film by telling us, in a way that will bring tears to most eyes, that he is going to document his memories of his parents and his grandparents. They are all dead now, but he can still remember everything about them: From the time they were children. His mother, with whom he spent summers and on whom, according to Spielberg, he was inspired to make his first movie, made the trip to see him do his first movie. Spielberg remembered her face in the film he made, and in this we see a beautiful tribute to his mother.
The Fabelmans is not just a love letter to the film and television medium, but to a particular way of looking at the modern world in which people communicate, live as well as record their lives by film and television. The movie captures the magic of the process itself, and the magic of being a child again, of suddenly being able to go back in time and see, once more, the face of your mother.
The film is narrated by a woman named Charlotte (Amanda Seyfried), who is a photographer and a friend of the Fabelmans. As the movie unfolds, we see flashbacks of their lives, and we also see how Charlotte’s life has evolved. She was once a teenager, and she now is an old woman with a beautiful child who takes pictures for a living. We see her go through a divorce, and through a second marriage. We see her struggling