New Jersey, 1952. Six-year-old Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) watches The Greatest Show on Earth in the cinema and is particularly fascinated by the large train derailment scene. That same night he asked his parents for a model railway, which he happily derailed after receiving it. Papa Burt (Paul Dano) doesn’t like it, but mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams) encourages her son to simply capture the gaffe on film. That way he can look at it over and over again without the gift ever breaking.
Filmmaking became Sammy’s great passion in the years that followed. As a teenager (Gabriel LaBelle) he made short westerns and war films with his friends, with the resulting works becoming more and more elaborate. Dad Burt is impressed but dismisses filming primarily as a hobby. While Sammy is concentrating on new film experiments, the marriage between Mitzi and Burt seems to be falling apart because of the constant movement.
With The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg looks back on his difficult childhood in a touching way. The extent to which the master director was influenced by his parents becomes obvious here. Although their marriage fell apart, Spielberg finds beautiful and warm images together with Janusz Kamiński and inspires with a lot of love – for his family and for the medium of film.