Set in a working class suburb, The Miracle Club sees lifelong friends Lily (Smith) and Eileen (Bates), along with younger friend Dolly (Agnes O’Casey) decide to enter a talent contest at the local church. First prize is tickets to the famous pilgrimage site of Lourdes, a place that each of them has longed to visit for different reasons. Dolly has a young son who has never spoken a word and is searching for a cure, Lily has never been able to move past the death of her son Declan who drowned many years ago and Eileen has found a lump in her breast.
The Miracle Club exists in a small town world where gossip is rife, everyone knows everyone and grudges are decades long, which is demonstrated when Chrissie (Linney) returns to town after a long absence. Her return is treated with disdain by Lily and Eileen, though Dolly warms to her straight away. After only coming second in the talent contest, a twist of fate sees Lily, Eileen and Dolly suddenly able to join the trip to Lourdes and much to Eileen in particular’s dismay – Chrissie is along for the ride too.
The Miracle Club might be miraculous in name but it’s not quite so miraculous in nature. The twists and turns are easy to see and secrets which later act like revelations, are anything but. There are a number of serious themes and issues addressed but only ever at surface level, and it does feel like important conversations are missing. The Miracle Club glosses over the severity of the characters’ lives and wraps everything up a bit too neatly.
However, The Miracle Club has an ace up its sleeve and that is its cast. Whilst the story might feel a bit too neat and streamlined, the cast makes it engaging and interesting to watch. Smith in particular, as always, is a joy to watch and her delivery of certain lines is the emotional heart of the film. There is no doubt that in lesser hands, the film would lack the ability to successfully pull on the audiences’ heart strings.
The Miracle Club is not quite a hit nor is it a miss from O’Sullivan. If audiences are looking for a more meaty and substantial drama that treats the topics within with the solemnity they truly deserve then this is not that film. However, if a more diluted film with sweet moments of sentimentality is more your bag then this could be it. The Miracle Club will warm the cockles of your heart even if it doesn’t end up leaving a lasting impression.
Drama, Comedy | Ireland, 2023 | 12A | Cinema | 13th October 2023 (UK) | Lionsgate Films | Dir. Thaddeus O’Sullivan | Maggie Smith, Laura Linney, Kathy Bates, Stephen Rea