To jump headfirst into the vastness of uncertainty is definitely not a piece of advice you’ll get very often. And if you do get it, chances are it has not come from someone whose opinion actually makes a difference. But what is it about “safe” decisions that draw people in? If you think about the absolute unpredictability of circumstances, does anything really feel safe? Sure, there are odds to consider. And you could make a pros and cons list just to be doubly sure that you are, in fact, making the right choice. But in art, as in love, matters of the heart conquer any excuses you can find to stop yourself from taking the leap. A film made with love and for it as well, “The Fabelmans” is where Steven Spielberg allows the heart to win invariably. Partly basing itself on the director’s own journey of discovering himself in the wondrous world of cinema, the script makes space for one very significant theme: choosing happiness over the laid-out path of duty.
Steven Spielberg’s film makes it a point to explore passion in several forms and expressions while essentially telling the story of Sammy overcoming doubts and anxieties for the survival of his dreams. The making of the film itself stands as a glaring analogy to the extensive theme of perseverance. Steven Spielberg first had the idea for the film back in 1999, when his sister Anne wrote “I’ll be home.” But to tell the tale of your own life, especially if it has been a fundamentally complex experience, is anything but easy. Doubt came the director’s way when he considered how his parents might feel about a film that intruded into their personal lives. But it was a story worth telling, and more importantly, it was a story he wanted to tell. Standing hand in hand with Sammy and seeing a lot of himself in the boy with an overwhelming dream, Spielberg decided to follow his heart and do what he did best. While it is predominantly Sammy and his parents’ story, it isn’t necessarily told from the angsty perspective of a teenager. Instead, Spielberg chose to look back with as much kindness and warmth as one can conjure up. When reminiscing about what it was, he doesn’t distract himself with daydreams of what it could have been. There’s no regret in Spielberg’s semi-biopic. There can be no regret when people follow their hearts.
Sammy’s father is as sweet as they come. But as opposed to his infinite understanding of the inner workings of computers, his grip on artistic passion remains weak. What he fails to grasp is that the drive that Sammy feels for making movies and that Mitzi feels for music is the same drive he feels for what he does. The moneymaking aspect of his passion blinds him to the bigger picture—there’s art in everything creative. Following his own heart to make a career out of his passion didn’t come with the usual generic obstacles for Burt. So in terms of comprehending how it must have affected Mitzi when she stopped pursuing music on a bigger scale, Burt was completely obtuse. It’s not that he doesn’t sit in absolute awe when Mitzi plays the piano or that he doesn’t burst with genuine pride seeing Sammy’s films. His limited understanding of art and its importance keeps him from seeing it as more than just a hobby.
Sort of a recluse in his mind, even when he is with people, Sammy finds his refuge in the films that he makes. He isn’t compulsively morose. But his father’s disregard for his passion stands in the way of him being truly happy. His films are how he essentially communicates all that he feels. Even though Mitzi persistently puts up a happy front, for the most part, Sammy sees right through his mother. Seeing what it does to a person when they give up on their dreams makes Sammy hold on to his own dream even stronger. He loves his father. In some ways, he even makes excuses for his father. In his teenage short-sightedness, Sammy fails to realize why his mother has fallen for his father’s best friend. And while all that anger and bitterness blind Sammy to what really is important, he eventually does find his way through it all.
How Sammy’s passion for making movies ebbs and flows has more to do with the complex relationship he has with his mother than anything else. He is inspired by Mitzi. The death of her own dream makes her cheer him on in his pursuit even more. All of her creative and characteristic wilderness is tamed into a woman who is supposed to play the roles of a sacrificing mother and a devoted wife. She stopped herself from following her heart once. But for how long can a person fake a happy life without breaking down? Mitzi’s second chance at following her heart stands in the way of Sammy following his. To Sammy, Mitzi stands as the embodiment of the free spirit of art. And because he perceives Mitzi’s affection for Benny as something incredibly selfish, he starts feeling bitter about his own creative energy. It takes him a while to accept that his mother has always been unhappy. It takes him longer to realize that she deserves to do what her heart desires. Forgiving a parent for deciding to end their marriage is never easy. But however late he may be, Sammy does reach the right conclusion after all. And seeing what happiness her mother’s decision to follow her heart has brought her, he finds his drive once again. He does try his hardest to do what his father wants him to do. But there is always more Mitzi in him than there is Burt.
Spielberg treats the memories of his youth with more kindness than he perhaps did when he was living those incidents. The parents’ separation gets believable outrage from Sammy and his siblings, but the director makes it a point to depict it from an all-around empathetic perspective. At the same time, there’s almost a contradictory mischief in Spielberg’s film. Nearing the climax, Sammy transforms his high-school bully into a Greek god of sorts in his ditch-day movie. If perceived as a muted metaphor, Sammy’s treatment of the ditch-day movie could very well be Spielberg’s way of confessing that he did, in fact, wrap the unpleasantness of his early life in fictitious glory to nullify the impact it could have on his personal life. In any case, “The Fabelmans” isn’t an apologia presented in a convincingly emotional disguise. It is, in fact, an understanding shoulder to all the dreams that are restrained by the argument of selfishness. It is a wake-up call for those who are burdened with guilt for daring to seek their hearts’ desires. Art and love amalgamate in Spielberg’s film. And it does so bravely, profoundly, and unapologetically.
See more: How Steven Spielberg Edges You To See The True Control Of Art Over Artist In His Film ‘The Fabelmans’