Spielberg was born with a camera in his eye. And that one film that he’s been making all his life, Sukanya Verma is watching.

“His eye is so connected to his brain.”

Tom Hanks is spot on about the man behind five of the best films of his career: Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, Bridge of Spies And The post.

It’s also the first thing that strikes you when you look at Steven Spielberg’s lovingly crafted semi-memoirs.

Years before he was honored with the Cecil B DeMille Award at the 2009 Golden Globes, Spielberg would find his life changed forever at a 1950s theater that starred the seminal filmmaker The greatest show in the world.

Winner of two Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Story, the spectacular train wreck sequence leaves a lasting impression on the knee-high, star-eyed viewer.

Spielberg finds an odd satisfaction in recreating that exact moment of the violent collision with his toy train set with an 8mm camera.

So far an amusing childhood reminiscence that he had recounted over and over while accepting the aforementioned honor or to Amitabh Bachchan when he visited India 10 years ago, manifests itself in a living, breathing image, captured on his favorite medium: film.

From why we go to his films to why he makes them, Spielberg comes full circle gloriously in the poignant, personal, The Fabelmans.

He’s the emperor of epic, the grandfather who turns the unthinkable into reality, the groundbreaking embodiment of never before and never after, a visionary whose popularity is just as proportional to his versatility, but Spielberg’s creative fuel is emotion, embarrassing amounts of Emotions.

In The Fabelmans, he shares the most intimate parts of his personal story, revealing his vulnerability in a way that feels like closure. And as a longtime audience of a great director of all time, you feel privileged that he chose to do it with you, almost like ET and Elliot’s finger touch.

Over the course of his five-decade career, Spielberg has sought to reconcile the deep-rooted pain caused by his parents’ separation and family breakup in his extensive body of work.

Echoes of his alienated and emotional attachments can be found in many of his films, which are so different Close Encounters of the Third Kind To Catch Me If You Can.

Unlike the movies, where he calms his inner turmoil by turning unfair reality into overblown fantasy, The Fabelmans recognizes the camera as his curse and blessing.

Here’s a young adult behind you who communicates best, it’s his voice and his world through which he lets people know how he sees them but is left all alone in the process.

The camera is his constant companion, and like all good friends, she blurts out every truth with brutal honesty. Like his mother’s closeness to his father’s best friend, an uncle figure that the family adores. Suddenly, the neatly labeled rolls of film he’s meticulously taping and assembling cannot replace the inevitable breakup his family is heading for.

Choosing a fictional alter ego, Fabelman, Fabel is German for Fabel, and that’s exactly how it plays out under Spielberg’s keen eye in Sam ‘Sammy’ Fabelman’s (Gabriel LaBelle) journey from theater to studio.

Only this isn’t some formula checklist cliché glorifying his legacy, but a touching acknowledgment of his parents as human beings—humans capable of error and folly, not society-designed role models.

Sammy’s mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams) is a free spirit and a pianist destined for bigger plans than worldly life can ever offer with her decent but boring husband Burt, a nerdy engineer (Paul Dano).

The uprooting of her family of six, including Sammy’s three feisty sisters—or seven if you count Uncle Bennie (Seth Rogen)—from New Jersey to Arizona and eventually California against Burt’s wishes is increasingly detrimental to the Fabelman household.

Mitzi falls into despair and depression.

Burt drowns in work and denial.

Sam struggles with his Jewish identity in a college full of bullies.

The only benefit of his religion is that it appears as a romantic oddity in the eyes of a curious Catholic girl who can’t tell “let’s pray” from “let’s play”.

Life is too vast to confine itself to the details of narration, The Fabelmans has no plot or structure.

It’s a series of carefully edited anecdotes about camps and beaches, dinner-table moments and meltdowns, and impromptu home-video shenanigans that give us a loving glimpse into Spielberg’s origins as filmmakers and athletic siblings (though one of them cheekily questions the serious lack of women provides central roles in his films), but never to the point of enjoyment.

Instead, there are quirky uncles offering advice, soul uncles offering cameras, and a legendary directorial performance played by a legendary director who reiterates Spielberg’s skill in poetic final scenes. And support promising young talents.

Gabriel LaBelle has quite a responsibility on his shoulders. He plays an icon at his most awkward, insecure, judgmental, shy, undeveloped and unaffected stage. LaBelle conveys the rough edges just as convincingly as the brilliance and emotionality of the man.

Flipping through The Fabelmans album would have no nostalgic value without Sam’s parents from whom he inherited the best of both worlds. He has the artistic soul and sensibility of Mitzi and Burt’s fluency with technology.

But Spielberg’s reflections gain unspoken depth and unrest in Mitzi’s suffocation and sadness.

In Susan Lacy’s wonderful 146-minute documentary Spielberg The director, who streams on Disney+Hotstar, calls his mother Peter Pan: “She was our best friend, not a primary caregiver.”

Michelle Williams, as always, is instinctive about bringing to life one of the most important and influential women in Spielberg’s life, but it’s Paul Dano’s ability to steal a frame by capturing everything that struck me immensely.

In the same documentary, a great companion piece to this film, Ben Kingsley notes, “There are very few directors who respect silence. He will capture every single gesture you offer the camera and he will use it.

Spielberg was born with a camera in his eye. And he’d been making that one film all his life.

The Fabelmans Review Rediff Rating: