Family hugging each other

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

"Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" is a film adapted from a book by Judy Blume, first published in 1970, and directed by Kelly Freeman Craig, the filmmaker behind "Edge of 17." It's a coming-of-age story where we follow Margaret, an 11-year-old girl played by Abby Ryder Fortson. Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie convincingly play her parents, with Kathy Bates, as captivating as ever, starring as her grandmother.

Margaret and her family move from New York City to New Jersey, where she forms a friendship with her new neighbor, Nancy Wheeler, played by Elle Graham. Nancy proudly proclaims that her family lives in the bigger house down the road, hinting at her social status and personality.

Throughout the movie, Margaret is seen grappling with adolescence and wrestling with the concepts of faith, love, and self-identity. A significant part of the plot also revolves around a secret club that Margaret and her friends form, with a set of rules they must abide by, like stating their latest boy crush, wearing bras, and not wearing socks.

One of the charming elements of the film is how Margaret's prayers to God are reminiscent of diary entries, effectively presenting her inner thoughts to the viewers. The story also sees Margaret dealing with the religious divide within her family, leading to her revelation about the conflict religion can create.

Craig treats her characters with intelligence and respect. She touches upon the trials and tribulations of puberty authentically, expertly highlighting the experiences of a pre-adolescent girl in a way that enlightens viewers of all genders. A film like this has the potential to make young girls feel less alone in their struggles growing up, especially dealing with topics that are seldom discussed.

It's not only for younger audiences but also appeals to adults. Parents may appreciate the movie, especially the perspective it provides on the challenges of raising an 11-year-old.

On a lighter note, the movie also includes comical segments. The girls in the secret club engage in activities like examining an anatomy book, playing Spin the Bottle to Dusty Springfield's 'Son of a Preacher Man,' and discussing bodily changes.

As Margaret grows and changes, the adults around her do the same. Rachel McAdams delivers a heartwarming and emphatic performance as a mother navigating the challenges of parenting an 11-year-old while also grappling with the personal sacrifice of giving up her art and teaching due to the move.

The grandparents often behave childishly. As the beloved grandmother, Kathy Bates knows how to make you fall in love with her character. But when things don't go her way, this is one woman you don't want to mess with...

Benny Safdie, portraying the dad, is a wholesome and sweet addition to the cast. His character's excitement for a brand-new electric lawnmower is relatable and adds a touch of light-hearted humor.

"Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." is an empowering, informative, and charming depiction of growing up and celebrating womanhood. Craig offers a much-needed representation of young girls' adolescent experiences and challenges. Whether you're reminiscing about your pre-teen years or looking for a way to understand the ones you're currently navigating, the film is an excellent guide and companion.