|Directed by:||Thaddeus O’Sullivan|
|Written by:||Jimmy Smallhorne, Timothy Prager, Joshua D. Maurer|
|Starring:||Laura Linney, Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith, Stephen Rea, Agnes O’Casey, Mark O’Halloran|
|Released:||August 3, 2023|
No matter how hard we try, it’s often difficult to escape the past. It’s a theme which has been explored in countless movies and is again on display in The Miracle Club, a period piece directed by Irishman Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Ordinary Decent Criminal). The three-person screenwriting team take us back to 1960s Ireland and a fictional tale centred on four women with long-held secrets they need unburdening from.
Chrissie (Linney) has travelled from Boston to her childhood home in Dublin following the death of her estranged, “saintly” mother. Lily (Smith) is an elderly woman who has never fully come to grips with the death of her teenage son several decades ago. Eileen (Bates) is a nosy gossip who has become a little weary of her husband (Rea) and broader family. Dolly (O’Casey) is a struggling mum with a grown child who does not speak.
In the company of a kind-hearted priest (O’Halloran), this unusual quartet set out on a bus/ferry journey from Dublin to the famous Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Southern France. The reasons for the trip vary but there is a common thread – they’re looking for change in their lives, whether it be through a divine miracle or something more realistic and organic.
The Miracle Club is a compassionate flick with a contrived screenplay. Characters allude to their guilt-laden secrets but then don’t spill the beans right away to help prolong the narrative. There’s nothing wrong with that technique but it’s done so in a clunky manner which is far too obvious. Subplots involving other characters, such as family members stuck in Dublin while the women are away, add a splash of comedy but not much else.
Elevating the material are the wonderful performances of the four leads – Laura Linney, Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith, and Agnes O’Casey. They share some great conversations – from tough-love arguments laced with sharp barbs… to soothing, speak-from-the-heart moments which reminds us of the value of true friendship. They’re all superb but it’s hard not to single out Smith who continues to make an indelible impression at the age of 88.
The Miracle Club is a corny, likeable, old-fashioned yarn.