After her exceptional debut with Edge of Seventeen, writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig returns with another triumphant coming-of-age story, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Based on the beloved Judy Blume novel, this film captures the essence of adolescence in a thoughtful and charming way, showcasing Fremon Craig’s ability to portray the complexities of growing up with honesty and humour.
Set in the 1970s, the story revolves around Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson), an 11-year-old girl navigating the turbulent waters of adolescence. When her family relocates from New York City to suburban New Jersey, Margaret finds herself uprooted from her friends and beloved grandmother (Kathy Bates). In the face of the everyday challenges of growing up – adjusting to a new school, forging new friendships, and preparing for puberty – Margaret turns to prayer, seeking divine guidance from the man upstairs.
Fremon Craig skilfully depicts the various aspects of Margaret’s life with honesty and heart, finding a rich vein of cringe comedy in the way Margaret and her peers grapple with puberty. From posturing about periods to boasting about boys and bras, they all share a mix of terror and curiosity. While the film’s setting is specific to the ‘70s, the trials and tribulations of teenage life remain universal, timeless, and painfully relatable.
Alongside Margaret, we witness the struggles and triumphs of her parents, particularly her quietly conflicted mother, portrayed by Rachel McAdams. McAdams is fantastic here, infusing her character with quiet strength as she strains to do the best for her daughter, while dealing with her own insecurities about the passage of time. As Margaret’s father, Benny Safdie surprises with an endearing portrayal of a loving yet slightly clueless dad, a departure from the edgier, scuzzier roles he’s known for in his own films.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a tender and uplifting film that treats its characters with dignity and humanity. It brings Blume’s iconic novel to life through thoughtful storytelling and remarkable performances. Fremon Craig once again showcases her ability to balance humour and genuine emotion, crafting a narrative that explores universal themes of self-discovery and identity within the specific journey of a young girl in search of divine intervention.