Your “call story” is one of the things you have at the ready when interviewing with a church to be pastor. This story explains how you felt called into ministry and why you feel the need to be a pastor professionally.

I have interviewed for many churches, and the question about my call to ministry always comes up. There has to be an accounting of why you feel called by God to do what you do.

“The Fabelmans” appears to be a fictionalized version of Steven Spielberg’s “call story,” which follows the life of Sammy Fabelman.

The film begins with a young Sammy (Mateo Zoryan) standing in line with his parents, Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano), at a movie theater. This is the first time Sammy attended a movie in person.

Both Mitzi and Burt assure Sammy that it will not be too scary and that they will be with him while being inside watching the movie. Sammy’s first in-person feature film is “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

While watching the movie, a scene of a robbery gets stuck in Sammy’s mind. Not the robbery, but what happens afterward. A car driven by the robbers gets struck by a train and is flipped over.

Being Jewish, there is no Christmas or Santa. But there is Hanukkah. Before seeing the movie, Sammy has no idea what he wants for a present, but he instantly declares he wants a train set after watching the film.

Upon receiving the train set, Sammy sets out to recreate the train hitting the car in the movie. After doing it several times, he damages the engine. Burt, being a genius with electronics, repairs the train and tells Sammy not to do it again.

Mitzi has an idea. She tells Sammy that they can take the movie camera Burt has and film it so Sammy can watch it over and over again. That becomes the catalyst for Sammy’s interest in making movies.

The backstory of Sammy’s interest is colored by Burt’s ability to work with electronics, specifically with the early evolution of computers. This skill brings him job offers that entail multiple moves for the family. They relocate from New Jersey to Phoenix and then to Northern California. These moves put stress on the family.

Burt’s best friend, Bennie (Seth Rogen) comes along for the move to Phoenix. He comes at the urging of Mitzi.

Mitzi is a pianist and her relationship with Burt is like oil and water. She is driven artistically while Burt is driven by science. When the family moves to Northern California, their relationship starts coming apart.

All the while, Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) continues making movie and getting better at the craft of movie making. It is clear he has a gift for making movies. Sadly, Burt sees this as nothing more than a hobby.

This film is what I would say is the call story of Steven Spielberg. I believe he is called of God to be an artist, because the making of movies is clearly an art form.

There are many wonderful performances here. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano stand out. But the one that caught my attention was Judd Hirsch.

Hirsch plays Uncle Boris, the brother of Mitzi’s mother, who appears on the doorstep of the family right after her death. He is in the film for just a brief few minutes, but they are powerful minutes.

Uncle Boris is a bit of a black sheep in the family. He worked in the circus and the movie business. Talking to Sammy one night, he tells him something important: “Family, art. It will tear you in two.”

That is the most telling statement when one applies it to Spielberg. Watching this movie and some of his other works, you see the intersection of family and art and the struggle Spielberg has gone through for the two.

Later in his career, James Lipton has Spielberg on “Inside the Actors Studio,” and he asks Spielberg about “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

In that movie, the aliens speak to humans through computers that play music notes. Lipton asked if Spielburg used that because his father was a computer engineer, and his mother was a concert pianist. Spielberg replies in astonishment, “I never thought about that until you mentioned it. It must be.”

“The Fabelmans” is a fine film. Not only because it tells about a great director’s coming of age, but also due to its depth.

Viewers see how life experiences influence the art and artistry of one as gifted as Spielberg and how they show up on the canvas of the screen. This is the call story of an artist.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language, thematic elements, brief violence and drug use.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner

Cast: Michelle Williams as Mitzi Fabelman; Paul Dano as Burt Fabelman; Seth Rogen as Bennie Loewy; Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy Fabelman; Sam Rechner as Logan Hall; Chloe East as Monica Sherwood.

The movie’s website is here.

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