First, go see Steven Spielberg’s new movie. It’s a beautiful movie. Spoiler alert — scenes are discussed below LOL
The movie is about so many things. Clearly it is a coming of age story: A story about youth, its cruelties, including antisemitism; coming to understand one’s family, one’s parents as real and complicated adults; nascent passions; the tension between artists and scientists. It is a story of why/how Steven Spielberg became a movie director, and the power he gains behind the camera.
It also is very much a story about a mother. Mitzi is so complicated. Her artistic aspirations are stunted by the duties of family. What to make of the scene where Burt and Bennie tackle her to cut her manicured nails — clearly she needed them cut to play her best piano for a concert, they were helping her, but why does it feel like an assaut? And her depression after they move to California, leaving Bennie behind… For how many of us is a major depression the evidence (maybe the first we’ve acknowledged) that our hearts, our true desires are diametrically opposed to the life we are living? She chooses to move to California for her kids, “to NOT be selfish.” By the story’s end, though, she tells Sammy that she is choosing “the most selfish thing she will ever do,” leave Burt and go back to Arizona and to Bennie. Her final words, “you don’t owe your heart to anyone.”
All this resonated with me as a powerful midlife story: The complicated lives we build the longer we live; the complicated and sometimes conflicted loves we experience; the tension between being good parents and not losing our own passions or just losing ourselves (I have a line in my novel where the protagonist says: “Was there ever a mother who sacrifices too much and not enough at the same time?”); that it’s never to late to get things right, though there will be pain involved. There is the great difficulty, I believe: How do we — maybe just, do we even — fix our own pain when it hurts the one’s we love?
One response to “Is The Fabelmans actually a Midlife story?”
This resonates with me as a mother of a special needs adult. Learning to be “selfish” on occasion is vital to remaining a good parent. Feeling guilty about it is just part of the drill.