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Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret (Blu-ray Review)

3 min read

Lionsgate

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

Like so many films about girls approaching adolescence, we start with a house move. From Ghibli to Pixar the disruption felt by animated pre-teens seems best summed up by forcing them out of everything they know, and dropping them into an unfamiliar environment. Where they have to make new friends and adjust to a new way of life, alongside those familiar bodily changes.

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret is definitely part of that trend, and shares a lot with Pixar's Inside Out in other ways. Both Riley and Margaret are internalised performances, we get stuck into the nitty gritty of what makes these girls tick, with a peek inside their brains. While the Pixar version is a bit of a high concept metaphor that explores mental health among other things, Margaret grapples with her understanding of religion and friendship through voice-overs in the form of letters to God.

Lionsgate

This makes Are You There… sound like quite a sombre affair really, which it isn't. What it does, and does well is address not just Margaret's rites of passage through adolescence but the growth of the generations of women who led to her too. Her mother Barbara () uses the opportunity of a lower cost of living outside of the city to be at home more, getting involved with the PTA and finding herself roped into cutting up thousands of fabric stars. Margaret's grandmother Sylvia () grapples with her new found loneliness as she isn't host to multiple generations of her family, and attempts to encourage Margaret's religious discovery as a way of reconnecting with her. Both of these performances are as nuanced and multilayered as you would expect and help Are You There… to rise above everything that would potentially make it a typical coming of age film.

Instead, we are presented with a portrait of the generations of history that form a family, and it's beautiful to watch it unfold and develop as these characters all play as important a part in who Margaret is as her own progression and learning. The anchoring of Margaret's family history in religious conflict gives a weight to it that is generally unseen in teen fiction, and goes some way to explain the story's enduring popularity despite it's 1970's setting.

Like so many girls, her thoughts go beyond boys, though they do play a part. And beyond the changes in her body, though they are present too. Here we are forced to question and examine, how hard it is for women even now to find their place in the world, and how they feel torn in different directions between their loves and their responsibilities, and how early in life that conflict starts.

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret brilliantly bridges the gap between the two types of teen film, and hones them beautifully to create something that sets itself apart from what has come before it. May we be lucky enough for our young people to grow up with more stories like this, and fewer that reduce girls to popularity obsessed vapid queen bees and conquests for boys.

Lionsgate UK presents Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. on digital 18 July and on Blu-ray and DVD 7 August