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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret: Review

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret Synopsis: When her family moves from the city to the suburbs, 11-year-old Margaret navigates new friends, feelings, and the beginning of adolescence.

A precocious teenager finds herself at a spiritual and adolescent awakening when moving to a new town in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Adapted from an iconic Judy Blume work, Margaret finds writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig continuing her keen insights on women coming-of-age (Craig crafted 2016's Edge of Seventeen with similarly warm and personable results). Craig remains an unheralded voice in the industry, but she hopefully won't stay that way for long. She is an essential auteur who magnifies overlooked human dynamics, with her work here inside a literary classic only proving her adept skill and human understanding behind the camera.

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret is an utter delight. Craig captures her narrative as a yearbook of kaleidoscope memories, each effervescently shining as ordinary yet ultimately defining blips in young Margaret's life. She faces the challenges of adjusting to a new chapter in life - making friends in her unfamiliar town, entering the unknown quandary of puberty, and coming face-to-face with her spiritual identity. This medley of personal plights could quickly become too busy in the wrong hands, but Craig weaves each chapter together seamlessly. Her direction imbues sensitivity into these personable parables, while her sage and introspective screenplay always capture authentic truths from Margaret's odyssey. The film's focus on religion is particularly insightful. In a climate where most religious films prop up half-baked sentiments or cheerlead simplistic propaganda, It's Me, Margaret features an intelligent examination of a character stuck at a crossroads between various ideologies and their worthwhile ideas.

One of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret's remarkable qualities is its resonance at all periods of life. As Margaret undergoes awkward adolescent trials, her spirited mother, Barbara, reckons with her new existence as a stay-at-home mom. There is also her loving grandmother Sylvia, who is now entering her senior years without the support of her once-nearby family. Despite Barbara and Sylvia being tertiary figures, Craig wonderfully ties them together by capturing the kinship bonding them. It's impressive just how seamlessly these trio of arcs complement each other in creating a well-rounded portrait of Margaret and the important influences shaping her life.

The three also come to life through remarkably lived-in performances. Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates showcase their distinctive charisma and transfixing gravity onscreen as Barbara and Sylvia (few actors dawn such a bright glow on screen like McAdams). However, it's young newcomer Abby Ryder Fortson who truly steals the show. The actress displays poise and complexion far beyond her years as she brilliantly conveys each high and low Margaret endures.

Reflective coming-of-age stories are a dime a dozen, yet that does not stop Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret from standing tall above the crowded field. Equally precise and affectionate, the film easily ranks as one of 2023's first standout offerings.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is now playing in theaters.


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