'If my ranting at the beginning of this article didn't make it clear enough, I was a big fan of the book'HEIDI ATKINS WITH PERMISSION FOR VARSITY

Are you there, God? It’s me, Heidi. It seems a bit cruel of you to release this film as I teeter on the brink of (real) adulthood, a film based on the book I read when I teetered on the brink of (real) teenage life. When I first read the book, anticipating the release of hormones that would transform me completely, I started a diary that began with the sentence I used to open this article. Frankly, God, I don’t appreciate the poetic parallels you’re forcing me to draw between my tween and teen self!

“I saw my eleven year old self and all the other eleven year old girls I’ve known, reflected on screen”

Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret is the latest coming-of-age film from Kelly Fremon-Craig and, in many ways, a spiritual prequel to her earlier foray into the genre: The Edge of Seventeen. The movie is based on Judy Blume’s book of the same name and, if my ranting at the start of this article didn’t make it clear enough, I was a big fan of the book. Both follow Margaret as she moves to the suburbs, battles puberty, religion, and the horror of being the last of your friends to get your period.

I was told to read the book by my mother when I, like many girls, began complaining that I hadn’t gotten my period yet. I can still remember the shame: I thought I was kept out of some secret club and trapped in eternal jealousy of each girl who told me that they had “got it!” Being the last of your friends to get boobs or your period feels like the end of the world when you’re a young girl and Are You There God? is all about that small apocalypse.

Abby Ryder Fortson is astounding as Margaret Simon. She performs that terrible feeling of being eleven and your body transforming with incredible accuracy. It is a little embarrassing to admit you were almost moved to tears by someone putting on a period pad for the first time, but Forston plays moments that could be just for laughs with a glimmer of child-like hope and anticipation in her eye. Among my female friends I would be hard-pressed to find someone who hadn’t ‘just tried’ a pad to see how it felt and Forston replicates that experience beautifully.

My friends and I for one of my birthday parties. All got their period before me, a feat I will NEVER forgive. JUNE GRANT WITH PERMISSION FOR VARSITY

This sort of empathetic filmmaking transforms Are You There God? from a simple ‘tween-flick’ into a beautiful love letter to the messy middle ground of adolescence. In a particularly evocative scene we look at Nancy Wheeler, the film’s resident mean girl, as she gets her period for the first time. The camera rests in the toilet with her as we see the shock, the joy, the relief, and the terror before finally, she sobs and we are reminded that, despite how grown up she tries to seem, she is still a scared child on the brink of enormous change.

“Fortson plays moments that could be just for laughs with a glimmer of child-like hope and anticipation in her eye”

The mean girl sobbing about her period, the girls buying pads for the first time and Margaret’s first kiss to cool-guy Phillip Leroy are all undeniably funny scenes that could easily be over-exaggerated and played solely for laughs. Yet, when I laughed at these moments, I wasn’t laughing at a hammed up scene of a brat getting her comeuppance, nor a purposeful awkward joke about periods being gross. Instead, I was laughing because I saw my eleven year old self and all the other eleven year old girls I’ve known, reflected on screen.

'The girls buying pads for the first time...'HEIDI ATKINS WITH PERMISSION FOR VARSITY

The audience I watched this in was the busiest I have ever been in and, mostly, full of retired women. As cringe-worthy as it may be, I felt the universal experience of these moments of girlhood shared between the women around me. I cried, they cried, we both remembered that growing up is terrifying, your first period is a nightmare and not having one feels even worse, that getting boobs early is torture and getting them late is emotionally devastating. I was surrounded by women who, like me, remember that mortifying awareness that there are boys and girls you’re attracted to and that (sometimes) they like you back.


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In some sense, it is all horrific, but, in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I was able to look at that horror and remember the joys of girlhood. Right now, I am on the precipice of adulthood, whatever that may mean. Yet, sitting down with women three times my age in Arts Picture House, I was reminded that, however messy this new transformation will be, it will also be as funny, as difficult, and as beautiful as the one I experienced at eleven.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is released in UK cinemas on 19 May 2023