Directed by Steven Spielberg, ‘The Fabelmans’ is a coming-of-age drama movie that chronicles the life of a young and aspiring filmmaker Sammy Fabelman who is living in Arizona after the Second World War. Sammy learns a shocking family secret and goes on to explore the significance of cinema in unveiling the truth. It is a semi-autobiographical tale largely based on the formative years of Spielberg, who also serves as the co-writer along with Tony Kushner.
Led by Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy, with compelling performances by the ensemble cast including Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and Judd Hirsch, the film honors the lives of Arnold Spielberg and Leah Adler, Spielberg’s parents. It talks about the struggles of divorce while remarking on the urge to pursue one’s dreams and the regret of not choosing your calling simultaneously. If you’re looking for more movies that act as a portrait of the filmmaker and shine a light on families in dark times, then we have just the right selections for you. You can watch most of these movies similar to ‘The Fabelmans’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
10. American Graffiti (1973)
Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and Paul Le Mat star in George Lucas‘ coming-of-age comedy-drama ‘American Graffiti,’ the first film ever made by Lucasfilm. The 1962 setting of the film is a study of early rock ‘n’ roll and cruising, which were prevalent during Lucas’ teenage years. The story revolves around a number of youths and their nightlong exploits, which were influenced by Lucas’ own days of defiance. This movie scours how sometimes in life, we need to listen to what our heart says over what anyone else says, just like Sammy in ‘The Fablemans’ aspires to follow his passion without worrying about upsetting others.
9. Almost Famous (2000)
This delightful comedy-drama film follows a youthful journalist who is covering the fictitious rock band Stillwater for Rolling Stone in the early 1970s. He goes on tour with the band, meets a stunning groupie, and pushes to have the whole story published. ‘Almost Famous,’ a unique gift for music fans, was motivated by filmmaker Cameron Crowe’s own experiences as a young rock journalist.
The 2000 film is a stirring coming-of-age tale that will inspire you to start living life creatively and meaningfully, similar to how Sammy’s journey ignites a creative spark in the audience. Both movies are uplifting and use humor to enliven the overall mood of the film.
8. Minari (2020)
Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, and Alan Kim give terrific performances in Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical drama film ‘Minari,’ which he also wrote and directed. The 1980s-set story, which is based on Lee’s own background, follows a South Korean immigrant family as they relocate to Arkansas to live on a farm and pursue their dream. The Yi family wants to start their own family company and grow their own Korean food, but not everything is as simple as it first appears. The themes of family conflict, sacrifices, and fulfilling dreams are highlighted in both ‘Minari’ and ‘The Fabelmans.’
7. Roma (2018)
‘Roma,’ another semi-autobiographical drama film written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, has Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira as the main protagonists. Set in 1970 and 1971, it centers upon a live-in housekeeper who works for a wealthy family. Even after she reveals her unexpected pregnancy, the housekeeper is regarded as a member of the Mexican family. In addition to producing, shooting, and co-editing the film himself, Cuarón also based the storyline on his own youth in the Colonia Roma district of Mexico City, just like Sammy’s life experiences resemble that of Spielberg’s.
6. Lady Bird (2017)
A film by Greta Gerwig, ‘Lady Bird’ is a rebellious, heartwarming, and passionate tale of Christine or as she wants to be known – Lady Bird. She explores the depth of her relationship with the people around her, especially her mother while working towards getting into a good college. Though the coming-of-age movie is not entirely based on the director’s life, some aspects were indeed inspired by her own journey. Both ‘The Fabelmans’ and ‘Lady Bird’ have the protagonist’s relationship with their parents at the core of the movie, other than the plot being based on a few elements of the respective filmmaker’s life.
5. The Souvenir (2019)
‘The Souvenir’ is a drama film written and directed by British director Joanna Hogg, starring Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, and Tilda Swinton. Julie, a young film student, falls in love with Anthony, a wealthy office worker, but their unhealthy relationship has an adverse effect on Julie’s academic performance. Anthony turns out to be a heroin addict.
Anthony doesn’t hesitate to break into Julie’s flat and has had dubious relationships with three other young women. Just like ‘The Fabelmans,’ this movie is also a semi-autobiography of the director, exploring the intricacies of a filmmaker’s personal life that entwines with their profession.
4. Boyhood (2014)
The coming-of-age drama movie ‘Boyhood‘ chronicles the physical and psychological transformations that a young Mason, his divorced parents, and his older sister go through. Director Richard Linklater creates a flawlessly performed, frequently humorous portrayal that focuses on the quiet, in-between instances that people experience rather than on major turning points. Filmed in parts from 2002 to 2013, it engrosses the audience in a fictitious narrative of beautiful everydayness. Both Sammy and Mason endure the weight of crumbling families and give us a peek into the minds of children who go through such rough times.
3. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
A fictitious tale of how filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore fell in love with cinema is found in ‘Nuovo Cinema Paradiso’ or better known as ‘Cinema Paradiso.’ It explores the greatness of cinema as a medium. The movie follows Salvatore, a renowned filmmaker who returns to his hometown following the death of the local theatre’s film projectionist. It is a must-watch for all cinephiles out there owing to its vibrant storytelling. Both protagonists, Sammy from ‘The Fabelmans’ and Salvatore from ‘Cinema Paradiso’ share a vivid love for cinema and filmmaking.
2. The 400 Blows (1959)
François Truffaut’s directorial debut is one of the key coming-of-age drama films of the French New Wave. Truffaut’s semi-autobiographical film revolves around a headstrong Parisian boy named Antoine Doinel, (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who seeks compassion from his professors and parents owing to his rebellious attitude.
The protagonist of ‘The 400 Blows,’ like the ones from most entries in this list, is a strong character who pursues his love for filmmaking while dealing with the troubles that arise at home. We witness a shared comfort in cinema for both leading characters in ‘The 400 Blows’ and ‘The Fabelmans’ as well. It reflects how children can find different means to cope with their situations.
1. The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Noah Baumbach is the writer and director of the independent comedy-drama ‘The Squid and the Whale.’ The semi-autobiographical narrative revolves around two Brooklyn youngsters who are coping with their parents’ divorce in 1986. Even though the unfaithful mom and the haughty dad agree to split custody, their parenting style leaves their kids in crosshairs.
Baumbach is famous for dealing with similar subjects, such as the broken marriages of young artists, in some of his earlier films. The movie, similar to ‘The Fabelmans,’ devotes more attention to how divorce affects children’s mental health whereas most films concentrate on adults. Narrating the experiences through a young protagonist’s eyes has enabled the movies to achieve a sense of relatability and connection for the viewers with the overarching theme.
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