The Miracle Club

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

The Miracle Club
dir Thaddeus O'Sullivan
scr Jimmy Smallhorne, Timothy Prager, Joshua D Maurer
prd Chris Curling, Joshua D Maurer, Alixandre Witlin
with Laura Linney, Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates, Agnes O'Casey, Mark O'Halloran, Stephen Rea, Mark McKenna, Niall Buggy, Eric Smith, Hazel Doupe, Luke Smith, Brenda Fricker
release US 14.Jul.23,
UK 13.Oct.23
23/Ireland 1h30

bates rea fricker

Is it streaming?

linney and smith
This warm Irish comedy features a range of storylines and plot threads woven into a rather frothy travelogue. Nothing feels particularly sharp, and any pointed central perspective is lost among the sideroads. Director Thaddeus O'Sullivan keeps everything light, even in the more serious moments. But there's a nicely prickly connection that emerges between the main characters, and a gentle message about forgiveness that's delivered skilfully by an adept cast.
In suburban Dublin in 1967, Chrissie (Linney) arrives from America after a 40-year absence and finds her mother Maureen's funeral upstaged by a church singing competition her mother was involved in with her friends Lily (Smith), Eileen (Bates) and Dolly (O'Casey). First prize is a trip to Lourdes in France with Father Dermot (O'Halloran). Maureen left a note asking Chrissie to take her place, hoping she will reconcile with Lily and Eileen after they rejected her decades earlier when she became pregnant as a teen and her boyfriend, Lily's son, died in an accident.
Each woman has a different reason for wanting to travel to the famed healing grotto, and as they travel and stay together, Chrissie, Lily and Eileen are forced to confront the issues from their past. Meanwhile, Dolly is hoping for a miracle, taking her mute young son Daniel (Smith) along against the wishes of her husband (McKenna), who feels stuck at home with the baby. Cutaways back to Dublin tell his rather silly story, as well as depicting the comical antics of Eileen's and Lily's befuddled husbands (Rea and Buggy).

Linney and Smith have terrific rhythms together as two stubborn women scarred by their past. Their performances are packed with remarkable nuance, nicely revealing tentative efforts to reach out without losing face. Clearly they were once very close, but the stony wall now between them is vivid. Bates has a broader role as the sparky and slightly oblivious Eileen, although she also has a very dark side. And O'Casey gets the more emotional scenes as the desperate Dolly, who blames herself for her son's silence.

Many locals criticise Chrissie for leaving and never coming back, but she icily reminds them that she was banished from this place. And she ignores questions about what happened to her baby. Then a conversation about the limited choices these women had when they were pregnant reveals a series of harrowing experiences. It's intriguing how this discussion brings them together, creating the chance to reconnect and finally address old wounds.

cert 12 themes, language 8.Oct.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall