Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (2023) follows the coming-of-age story of an 11-year-old girl as she comes to terms with her life in the new city, exploring friendships and undergoing significant changes while discovering herself.
With two supportive parents and a loving grandmother, Margaret learns new things about life in the most gentle and innocent way a young girl should. Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, known for her work on “The Edge of Seventeen,” the film is an adaptation of Judy Blume’s middle-grade novel of the same name.
It delves into sensitive topics such as religious affiliation and the conflicts it poses for a child born to interfaith marriages, adolescence, sexual education, and the influence of friendships formed at a young age, highlighting the importance of gentle and humane nurturing from parents.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (2023) Movie Synopsis & Plot Summary:
It is the 1970s, and Margaret returns home to New York after having a great time with her school friends at summer camp. Her mother and her grandmother receive Margaret, and it seems like the young girl is really close to her granny – Sylvia. Upon reaching home, while catching up with her dad, she notices the boxes lying around the house. Before her parents can explain, Sylvia blurts out that they are moving to New Jersey.
Clearly in shock, Margaret doesn’t understand why the family needs to move away when they have a perfect life here. She tries to wrap her head around how she will have to begin everything from scratch and how much she will miss her friends and school life here. However, her father, Herb, tries to explain to her that he got a new job in New Jersey, and her mother, Barbara, tells her that it is a great opportunity and this way, she will get to spend more time with her daughter. However, Margaret reminds her mother how much she loves teaching art.
Later in the night, Margaret retires to her room. While collecting everything she learned from her day, it might be the first time she tries talking to God. At first, she is grateful for everything in her life, and soon enough, she shares her true vulnerabilities of moving to a new city, meeting new people, and settling in a new place altogether. All of this overwhelms her, and she is not ready for the big move. The scene pulls is into the headspace of a young person and what moving from one place, with a sudden change in their life, means to them.
Bidding goodbye to New York and her beloved granny, Margaret, and her parents, drive to New Jersey. The house is bigger than before and has more rooms to decorate. While Bababra is swamped with arranging her plants and the living room, a knock at the door surprises both mother and daughter. Nancy Wheeler has come to introduce herself after learning ‘The Simons’ have moved into the neighborhood.
She invites Margaret to her house to play in their garden under the sprinklers. Barbara is happy to see her daughter making friends already, and the girls immediately leave to play together. Margaret and Nancy are both the same age and study in sixth grade. After learning that she is in the same school as Nancy, she tells her that Margaret can be part of her secret club, where she has one more free spot.
Since Margaret didn’t have her swimsuit handy, Nancy shares one of her own and asks if she has ever kissed a boy. Margaret is flushed with the question; however, Nancy quickly teaches her by demonstrating how to kiss using her bed’s corner mount.
Next, we see the two girls playing under the sprinkler when Nancy’s brother Evan and his friend Moose come in. We can see Margaret feeling the butterflies by the charms of Moose when he tells her to speak to her dad about him mowing their lawn for money.
What are the four rules to join Nancy’s secret club?
On the first day of their new chapter, while Herb rushes to work, Margaret is tense about her new school. Despite her mother’s warning about blisters, Margaret decides to wear the shoes without the socks, as Nancy suggested that will promise an entry into the secret club. As Margaret steps into the classroom, Nancy introduces her to two girls named Gretchen and Janie, along with an update about who’s who in the class.
The girls also share that Philip Leroy is probably the hottest boy among the lots in the sixth grade. Just as the class settles down, their teacher, Mr. Benedict, enters the room and introduces himself. He enthusiastically shares with the class about a year-long project each student will undertake where they are free to write a research piece based on their chosen subject.
Later, when Nancy invites the girls for tea time at her place, they all set four new rules that would be fundamental for their secret club. The rules are to maintain a diary and mention the boys they like, the girls would have to wear a bra, and one can never lie.
As much as the rules are essential, Margaret, on the other hand, feels pressured to keep up. Nevertheless, later in the night, she tells her mother she wants to wear a bra. Barbara feels wearing a bra so early can be avoided; however, Margaret wants to wear it anyway. The two decide to go shopping on the weekend.
Why does Mr. Benedict ask Margaret to explore religion?
Next, we see Margaret visiting the school PTA meeting, where she nominates herself to a bundle of school committees, thinking she will have something productive to do in her free time. On the other hand, soon after class, Mr. Benedict approaches Margaret and asks why she hates religious holidays, which she mentioned in the ‘getting to know better worksheet.’ She shares that she never celebrated any of those holidays as her mother is Catholic, and her father is a Jew, and her parents have left the decision of choosing her own religion up to her.
After considering her circumstances, Mr. Benedict suggests that Margaret explore religion as her chosen topic for the research project.
Why Margaret never met her maternal grandparents?
In the meantime, Sylvia is excited to see her granddaughter over the weekend as decided, so she buys theatre passes and calls Barbara to share the news. It is when Margaret comes in from school and asks why she hasn’t ever met her mother’s parents. Barbara never expected this question and gets emotional with the sudden interrogation. She sits her daughter down and gently shares that since she comes from a strict catholic upbringing, marrying Herb was a life-changing decision as her parents didn’t want to keep any relations with after marrying a Jew.
Listening to this very carefully, Margaret, who sees her mother getting sad, gets up and hugs her immediately and asks God to protect her mother and make her happy as she believes that her mother is a lovely human being who cares for everyone, sometimes even when it is not required. The scene then moves to the mother-daughter duo going shopping for a bra.
At the mall, Barbara and Margaret ask an assistant to help find the right bra for Margaret. Since she has not gotten the growth spurt, the kind saleswoman measures Margaret and suggests a Gro-Bra. The mother and daughter then go to the dressing room for a trial. As Margaret puts on the bra, Barbara helps her tie it up and asks her daughter how she feels wearing it for the first time. In a flash, Margaret says she can’t wait to take it off, making it one of the most relatable moments for any woman watching it. Barbara agrees and welcomes her daughter to womanhood.
Next, we see Barbara finding a home decor magazine in the post that she believes would help her find the right couch for the living room, as she thinks it is about time they upgraded to the new modern chic decor. While walking back indoors, she finds her husband trying on the new mowing machine, which is when the film establishes the couple is deeply in love with each other.
On the other hand, Margaret tries her new Gro-Bra for the first time before leaving for Nancy’s home. At Nancy’s, all the girls assemble and share their achievements per the rules. The first is sharing the content of the diaries where they have mentioned the boys they all like. It turns out that Margaret is the only one who has written Moose’s name, but to feel included, she says Philip Leroy’s name just like everyone.
Nancy then gets up and checks if everyone is wearing a bra and learns that all three girls are wearing a Gro-Bra, so she suggests an exercise that she has been practicing that would help in enhancing the growth. While the girls are chanting, ‘We must, we must, we must increase our bust,’ Evan and Moose barge in, teasing them, chanting the slogan leaving the girls feeling flushed and gushing.
How do Sylvia and Margaret bond over the weekend?
Herb and Barbara help Margaret board the bus to New York to spend the weekend with her grandmother, Sylvia. Even though Barbara is scared for her daughter to travel alone, she feels independence is good for everyone. While on the bus, after finding her spot so her parents can see her, Margaret once again talks to God. She shares that she is nervous about being alone and prays nothing terrible happens on the way to her grandmother.
Upon reaching New York, Sylvia waits for Margaret to get off the bus, and both quickly rush inside the theatre and enjoy a great evening watching a wholesome play. After that, the girls retire for the night, and Sylvia shares a funny story about how after applying a night hand cream, she nearly got scared of her own hands in the middle of the night.
It is only at that moment Margaret feels comfortable asking her granny about taking her to the Temple for Jews. After hearing the request, Sylvia jumps off the bed and starts preparing for the next big day with her granddaughter.
How does Margaret feel after visiting the Jewish Temple?
Sylvia takes Margaret to the temple the following day and tells everyone she has come there with her granddaughter. As the Rabbi takes the stage, Sylvia shares little details about how the prayers commemorate introducing her granddaughter with Jewish terms for greetings.
As per Margaret, the prayer takes a long time as we hear her talking to God in the background and sharing her feelings about visiting the temple. She feels the people in the temple are lovely, and she likes the music, but perhaps she expected more from it than she experienced.
How do Barbara and Herb react after learning about Margaret’s first visit to the temple?
After returning to her parents, Barbara is utterly shocked that Sylvia decided to take their daughter to the temple without consent. However, Margaret defends her grandmother and quickly tells them it was her idea to go to the temple.
Her mother feels that Margaret shouldn’t worry about religion or practicing faith and enjoy being herself. However, Margaret slams her mother by saying it was her mother’s idea that she can choose her religion when she grows up.
Barbara agrees, but she tells her that Margaret is still a child and this is not the age she should be thinking about religion. Margaret feels her mother is canceling her opinion and leaves the room, making Barbara realize that it was wrong of her to make her daughter feel unheard. Herb consoles his wife about how it is not her fault for how the conversation went on.
We then see Barbara visiting Mrs. Jan Wheeler (Nancy’s mother) for a committee meeting where she and two other women get assigned to cut 10 thousand stars from a bundle of cloth rolls for the upcoming committee program.
On the other hand, Margaret has invited her friends to her place, where the girls are keenly looking at the male reproductive organ in a human anatomy book that Gretchen stole from the library.
When the girls share their feeling about how the figure in the book looks, Nancy mentions how she will grow up to have a model-like figure, just like in the Playboy magazine. It is when Margaret shares that her father has a Playboy magazine, and the girls force her to bring the book to them. Margaret secretly walks into her parent’s room and gets the magazine to the girls, making their jaws drop – ultimately going back to their boob-enhancing regime, chanting their slogan repeatedly.
Margaret then visits the church for Sunday mass with Janie to experience how it feels to be a catholic. Simultaneously, we hear her talking to God, saying she is still uncertain about the feeling, but she sure loves the good mood Sunday mass can create.
What happens at Norman Fisher’s birthday party?
It is Christmas time, and Barbara is drafting postal cards for everyone. She stumbles on her parent’s name in her address book, and after much consideration, she decides to send them Christmas greetings via mail. In the meantime, Margaret gets invited to the ‘weird’ kid in her class – Norman Fisher’s birthday party, where everyone else is also invited. All the girls get ready and drive together to Norman’s house.
After dinner in their respective groups, Norman calls everyone in for game time. However, Nancy finds the game too dull, so she takes it upon herself to turn it into an actual party – making everyone play ‘kissing roulette.’ As it turns out, Margaret gets a chance to be kissed by Philip inside the bathroom, per the rules, leaving Nancy feeling sad as she has a crush on him. Inside the washroom, Margaret is unsure about how things will go, not knowing how to kiss, and Philip, at that very moment, kisses Margaret on her lips twice, leaving her pink and flush from her first-ever kiss.
On Christmas Eve, Margaret visits the local church with Nancy’s family. She realizes she is even more confused about how she feels about religion and asks God to give her a hint in finding out her feeling and know which religion she should practice.
Meanwhile, Sylvia finds ways to be more productive, she decides to go to Florida to meet people like her. On the other hand, Barbara gets a moment where she feels inclined towards art again after seeing a beautiful bird on one of her garden trees. However, the moment only lasts for a few minutes when Jan Wheeler arrives at her door to collect the box of stars. Seeing that Barbara did a great job with the stars, Jan requests her to do another lot since the other woman did a terrible job cutting them. Despite not feeling like doing it, Barbara’s niceness doesn’t let her say no to Jan and takes up more of that work.
Puberty Education Short Film and the Anticipation of Periods:
Next, we see Mrs. Webster conducting a puberty education seminar showing a short film about a changing female body to all the girl students in the 6th grade. The girls are shy and can’t stop yakking or gushing about the mighty details of how the body changes during puberty. At this point, the film couldn’t be more sensitive in showing such an important subject. Director Kelly Fremon Craig uses a thoughtful and gentle approach to let young people engage with the feeling of what’s approaching.
The short film then leads Margaret to ask her mother about the age she first got her period. Surprised by the curious question, Barbara tells her that she was 14 and the period happens when it is supposed to happen. While the girls sit outside the school campus, Gretchen joins them and shares the news about her first period. The girls gather at Nancy’s later, and Gretchen shares her feelings about the first experience. Finding out there is nothing more than just the odd feeling about the sight of period blood out of the body, the girls feel disappointed. Seeing one of her friends get her period, Margaret returns home and pleads with God to make her period happen soon enough.
Margaret and Janie go to the local pharmacy and get overwhelmed with buying sanitary napkins. After much consideration, they pick one, only to find a salesboy at the checkout counter. Feeling scared and embarrassed, they somehow purchase and quickly run out of the drugstore. Margaret returns home and takes out one of the pads from the sanitary pack and feels it to understand the texture and the build. Curious, she puts on the pad and tries to get comfortable around it. Just then, her mother knocks on the door and hands her a postcard from Janie, who is currently vacationing with her family. The postcard mentions, “I got it.” Confused about the message for a second, Margaret shouts in angst after realizing that Janie, too, got her periods.
Feeling sad, she calls Sylvia, who is packing for her trip to Florida. The girls talk on the phone and decide that Margaret will visit Sylvia in Florida for some time during spring break.
Margaret, Moose, Nancy, and her family go to Radio City to watch the latest musical – Cavalcade Of Winter Wonders! After enjoying a marvelous musical, all of them go out to dine. Nancy takes Margaret for a quick loo break, and it is when Nancy realizes that she got her period. Having her periods, Nancy gets scared, unlike the persona she portrays, and asks Margaret to call for her mommy. Margaret quickly brings Mrs. Wheeler to the ladies’ room, who immediately attends to her daughter, who can’t stop crying.
After taking her time, she explains what happened, and Mrs. Wheeler calms her daughter and gives money to Margaret to get a sanitary napkin from the ladies’ room napkin dispenser. Seeing Nancy vulnerable for the first time shakes Margaret as she gets the pad. Mrs. Wheeler asks the two girls to freshen up and join them at the diner. The silence between Nancy and Margaret while washing themselves is a clear example of how young girls of that age are mature enough to give one another the benefit of the doubt about what they are experiencing and how it can be different for each one of them.
Things that usually happen in Adolescence
In the meantime, Herb and Babara book Margaret a flight ticket to Florida to visit her granny. Margaret gets paired with Norman, Phillip, and Laura in school for class teamwork. While wishing Margaret on her birthday, Philip pinches her, which makes Margaret mad at him, and she goes home only to complain to God about the group she has been assigned the project with. W
hile working together on their project in the library with Laura, Margaret gets irritated about how Norman and Philip never write their things and make the two girls work. In the meantime, she also gets mean to Laura, voicing everything that Nancy ever told her about Laura. Laura gets upset and walks out of the library, and Margaret follows her to the school church, realizing she was mean to her for nothing.
It turns out that Nancy has been spreading rumors about Laura, badmouthing her quick growth and height. Laura tells Margaret that despite believing she is a nice girl, Margaret is no different than Nancy, and the other school kids always bully her about how she looks.
Margaret then sees Laura coming out of the confession room, which makes her want to go there too. The strange feeling of being inside the confession room after hurting someone makes her feel guilty, and before she can finish her confession, she runs away from the church.
What happens when Barbara receives a letter from her parents?
On the other hand, Barbara gets a reply from her parents, who have decided to visit them over the weekend so they can finally see their granddaughter. As much as this seems to be good news for the Simons, Herb reminds Babara about the time they had made her feel guilty about marrying a Jew. Barbara understands this, but writing to them and getting a response after so many years is also cathartic for her.
However, things become complicated when Margaret learns about her maternal grandparents’ visit on the same weekend when she is supposed to visit her granny in Florida. She gets terribly upset and asks her mother to handle this right away. In quick response, Herb calls Sylvia, updates her with the news that makes her fume and wants to speak to her daughter-in-law immediately. Barbara explains to her, says she will try to make it up later, and disconnects the call. The Simons, of course, are feeling different emotions together at the same time.
Waiting at the airport, Barbara requests Margaret not to look unhappy, giving out little behavioral instincts about her parents upon meeting them for the first time. Margaret asks why she is doing all this after what they have done to her, to which her mother says that she wants her parents to know what a beautiful family their daughter has made on her own. We then see Barbara awkwardly greeting her parents upon their arrival as Mary and Paul get introduced to Margaret. Herb, anxiously waiting at the airport entry point with the car, meets his in-laws for the first time as the family drives back home.
Who is the uninvited guest?
While Margaret escorts Mary and Paul to their room, Herb checks on Barbara and tells her that he has used all his small talk tactics and if she can help him with a topic that might be interesting to talk about with them. Just then, the doorbell rings, surprising both Herb and Barbara, and as they open the door, they see Sylvia and a man named Morris (whom she met in Florida) at the door. The surprise visit completely takes Barbara aback as she tells Sylvia that her parents are also in the house for the holiday. Hearing her granny’s voice, Margaret quickly hugs Sylvia, who shares that she had to see her granddaughter as promised.
Later at the dinner table, everyone uses small talk to break the ice until Sylvia shouts Shabbat Shalom to say cheers to the good life, making Mary and Paul feel strange. After dinner, Mary and Paul get comfortable around Margaret and suddenly ask if she goes to Sunday school. Before Margaret can gather her thoughts, Sylvia quickly responds to them about how Margaret is a Jew. After hearing this, Herb and Barbara jump into the conversation as her parents never imposed religion upon their daughter. Suddenly, everyone is debating what religion Margaret should practice.
Although the family is having a reunion for the first time, the night sadly goes in the wrong way, as everyone starts shouting and fighting about Margaret practicing a religion since she is born into a family with two faith. The sudden shouting and tense environment leave Margaret in tears as she gets up and tells everyone to shut up. She gets furious and tells them that she doesn’t care about anything and storms off, leaving Barbara feeling guilty for putting her daughter in a position where she had to witness such an awful thing about a mere belief of practicing religion. While Herb says goodbye to Sylvia as she boards the cab, Barbara too bids farewell to her parents with a broken heart.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:
What does Margaret write in the research piece?
After experiencing a traumatic moment post-dinner, Margaret goes to her room and starts working on the research piece Mr. Benedict assigned at the beginning of the class. Heartbroken with what she saw, she writes about what she learned about religion and how it makes people fight among them. She believes that every religion says the same thing, and if one prays to God, he listens to you to help and makes things better. And even though she prayed to God all the time, everything kept getting worse. All of these experiences brought her to the conclusion that there is no such thing as God and we are all alone in this.
After handing her piece to Mr. Benedict, who is clearly stunned to see such heartfelt writing looks at the teary-eyed Margaret, and before he can say anything, she runs away and hides inside the washroom and cries her heart out.
Does Margaret get her period?
As Barbara goes back to arranging the house, we see gloomy-faced Margaret return from school. Barbara asks Margaret to join her for some time as both of them crash on their new sofa. The film, at this point, shows the struggle of being an adult and a child at the same time, despite the fact that the feeling of being either is so similar. Barbara hugs her daughter sharing how trying so hard all the time gets tiring.
At the school’s graduation party, Mr. Benedict clicks a picture of Nancy, Margaret, Janie, and Gretchen all together. Margaret tells Mr. Benedict he is a great teacher despite teaching for the first time. As the girls move to the ping-pong counter, Margaret notices Laura alone. She goes to her and asks for a dance. Laura decides to join in, and the two girls start dancing. Janie, on seeing Margaret from a distance dancing with Laura, also joins in. While Nancy continues bossing around, Gretchen finally gives up and joins the other girls dancing, leaving Nancy alone.
We see Barbara has started teaching art as she always liked to, and after having a great day at her studio, on her way home, she sees Mrs. Wheeler, who tells Barbara about how she has thought of her name for the upcoming committee programs. Barbara takes a deep breath and is grateful for the opportunity but kindly declines the offer and drives off, leaving Mrs. Wheeler feeling odd.
The ending of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margret comes in the same way as it began. It’s time for summer camp again, and the Simons are helping Margret pack. Margaret talks to Sylvia, who wishes the best for the holidays. While looking at Moose, who is mowing their lawn, both Herb and Barbara notice their daughter getting pink cheeks. Herb very candidly reminds Margaret that he almost forgot to pay Moose for his job and asks her to hand over the envelope. As Margaret goes out to hand over the envelope, her parents feel super proud to witness their daughter’s first crush making them glee with happiness.
While handing the envelope, Margaret shares that she is going away for a while. Moose tells her that he is looking forward to her return so they can hang out together. Margaret blushes and goes back inside the house and then to her room.
We then see her sitting on the toilet, reminiscing about the nice little moment she had with Moose. As she gets up to flush, she freaks out at seeing what any girl her age would feel for the first time – the first-period blood.
In a state of panic, she calls Barbara, who frantically joins her in the bathroom and learns about her daughter’s first period. The two women hug one another to celebrate the event, and Barbara rushes inside the room to bring her daughter’s sanitary pad, which she had already bought prior, just in case. As she tries to explain how to use the pad, Margaret quickly confesses that she has been practicing alone for the past two months.
As Barbara lets Margaret be, she waits outside the bathroom patiently, entirely emotional about her daughter embarking on womanhood. The film concludes with a happy note with a close-up of Margaret looking at herself in the mirror, and then towards God.