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Review: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. – “An excellent coming-of-age story”

Rachel McAdams as Barbara Simon, Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon, and Benny Safdie as Herb Simon in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Photo Credit: Dana Hawley

Are you there god? A simple question echoed by teenage city-girl Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) throughout this tight-run feature directed by ‘The Edge of Seventeen’ director Kelly Fremon Craig.

Teenage girl Margaret’s life is turned upside-down upon her return from summer camp, as she is struck by the news her family has decided to leave her grandmother and home in New York City for the reclusive suburbs of sixties New Jersey. Upon arrival, she swiftly befriends fellow sixth graders Janie, Gretchen, and her neighbour Nancy, who together fantasise and (eventually) experience all aspects of adolescence.

Born into an interfaith marriage to her Jewish father (Benny Safdie) and Christian mother (Rachel McAdams), Margaret frantically seeks for a sign to aid her through her developing body and changing surroundings. Seeking refuge during this tumultuous period, Margaret looks to multiple faiths under conflicting pressures to identify a higher calling. A difficult concept to tackle, but done with so much respect, religion is compounded with themes such as menstruation, jealousy and loneliness – yet it does not alienate its audience. As a male atheist, I did not expect to resonate with this film as much as I did, the underlying themes of embarrassment, joy and confusion that coincides with puberty is captured perfectly by Craig and is relatable to any audience member. I laughed hysterically, hurt with the characters, and felt every moment of tension.

The key to this film is its comedy. A breath of fresh air in the modern cinema landscape of ‘quipy’ jokes which tear any film from relatability. Instead, Craig utilises the camera and editing to carry the punchlines – leaving my theatre audience in raptures over the silent mannerisms of the adults. This unexpected light tone is combined with a warm hue throughout which gives a homely empathetic feel to the characters and their environment.

The supporting cast is outstanding with McAdams shining as a mother torn by her indecision to forgive her own parents. Exercising her comedic chops previously seen in 2018’s Game Night to hilarious effect. Newcomer Elle Graham steals scenes as a confident gossiping neighbour who shows excellent range with a toilet breakdown which is one of the best scenes of the year thus far.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is an excellent coming-of-age story that brings an iconic novel into a modern audience with great effect. Kelly Fremon Craig once again has demonstrated a true understanding of character, whose flaws and imperfections are the real source of individuality and charm. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. opens in UK cinemas on 19th May 2023.

You can find me on Letterboxd.

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