They’re all here, God! (CREDIT: Dana Hawley/Lionsgate)

Starring: Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Benny Safdie, Elle Graham, Echo Kellum, Amari Alexis Price, Katherine Kupferer, Isol Young

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for “Thematic Material Involving Sexual Education” (So You Can Basically Replace the “13” in “PG-13” with Whatever Age Sex Ed Happens At)

Release Date: April 28, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: Are you there, lovers of coming-of-age movies? It’s me, your fellow film freak. Have you heard about Margaret Simon? Judy Blume wrote a book about her more than 50 years ago, and now we finally get to see the big screen version, with Abby Ryder Fortson stepping into the title role. Margaret is excited to start sixth grade, but she’s a little aghast that she and her family are moving from Manhattan to New Jersey. Her mom Barbara (Rachel McAdams) grew up Christian, while her dad Herb (Benny Safdie) is Jewish, but they’ve chosen to raise her without religion. But that hasn’t stopped Margaret from seeking some essential heavenly advice. And she’s going to need it, because she’s starting to notice boys, she’s ready to wear a bra, and she can’t wait to have her first period. And while God might not answer her directly all the time, at least her force-of-nature grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates) is always just a phone call away.

What Made an Impression?: I’ve heard that ever since its 1970 publishing, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret the novel has helped a legion of young ladies emerge from puberty relatively unscathed. I’ve unfortunately never read it, though I have encountered Judy Blume via her “Fudge” novels. But I’m fully aware of the reputation, and I knew that this movie had a lot to live up to. And folks, I am happy to report that it does in fact live up to those expectations. This is such a tender and thoughtful portrayal of adolescence, friendship, and family dynamics.

It all comes down to vulnerability. This story is just so honest and open about each of its character’s hopes and desires. Margaret and her friends are curious about what’s going on with their own bodies, as well as everyone else’s. It’s no great revelation to say that that’s completely normal, but it’s still always nice to be reminded that those aspects of growing up are as natural as eating and sleeping. And when they get a little too gossipy, it’s still clear that that’s born out of a very human desire to make genuine connections.

That grace in storytelling is extended to the adult characters as well, especially Barbara. She’s a formerly working mom who’s eager to step away from her job teaching art so that she can spend more time at home. But she quickly overextends herself by volunteering for pretty much every PTA committee at Margaret’s school. Her most triumphant moment happens when she is able to gleefully say no to the next volunteer request. And that sums up the irresistible appeal of the whole movie: if you’re willing to admit how you’re feeling, chances are you’ll make someone who feels the same way suddenly feel a lot better.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is Recommended If You Like: Baby boomer soundtracks, Old-timey sex-ed videos, Revisiting your most awkward memories

Grade: 4.5 out of 5 Sanitary Napkins