Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret poster

“It gets tiring. Trying so hard all the time, doesn’t it?”

Barbara Simon

Having spent several years raving about writer-director Kelly Fremont Craig’s debut, The Edge of Seventeen, her name drew me to this film more than the Judy Bloom book on which it is based. The source material is evidently beloved by many and, whilst some consider it strange that it has taken 50 years to receive a film adaptation, the regrettable reason is likely its refreshingly frank approach to female puberty. Craig sets the film in the 1970s, when the novel was published, a move that serves to highlight the story’s lasting relevance. Margaret is dragged from New York to New Jersey, forced to find a new clique of friends who, on the cusp of adolescence, are desperate for their first period in order to be perceived by their peers as mature. The adult cast features a host of big names — particularly Rachel McAdams in an expanded, sympathetic portrayal of Margaret’s mother as a woman dealing with her own issues of identity — but Craig casts relative newcomers as the children. Abby Fortson and Elle Graham stand out, the former through wry comedic sensibility and the latter through bold charm and energy. Despite the title, religion plays a limited role — Margaret’s parents have sought to escape their Jewish and Christian heritage, resenting interference from the grandparents. In making another coming of age film, Are You There God? falls squarely within Craig’s proven abilities and she again writes a likeable but flawed protagonist and deftly examines the positive and negative aspects of the friendships and familial relationships around Margaret whilst limiting melodrama.