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Film Review: “The Miracle Club” Needs Divine Intervention

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | July 13th, 2023

Film poster: “The Miracle Club”

The Miracle Club (Thaddeus O’Sullivan, 2023) 1½ out of 4 stars.

At the center of The Miracle Club’s treacle lies a moving narrative about loss and reconciliation. Unfortunately, the film’s worthy impulses too often sink beneath the mush of hackneyed sentimentality. Good intentions are not enough in this world; you have to deliver the actual dramatic goods.

Furthermore, director Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Citizen Lane) may himself be from Ireland, but he here concocts a movie that traffics in well-worn tropes about his countrymen, so quaint are the folks on screen, many of them played by non-Irish actors. The result is bizarre and not a little off-putting, simultaneously respectful of its characters and far too willing to poke fun at their overdone blarney. I don’t know what to make of The Miracle Club, except that I don’t much like it.

Maggie Smith in THE MIRACLE CLUB ©Sony Pictures Classics

The story follows four Irish women in 1967, who each for different reasons wishes to make a trip to Lourdes, in France, to bathe in the waters and hope for the titular miracle. They are played by Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Agnes O’Casey, and Laura Linney (Netflix’s Ozark series). The former are all residents of Dublin, while Linney’s Chrissie long ago decamped for America as a young woman following an unexpected pregnancy. She has returned, after 40 years away, for her mother’s funeral.

Lily (Smith) is the eldest, and the mother of the man, Declan, who was Chrissie’s lover. He drowned shortly after she emigrated, though his loss still pains all who knew him. That would include Bates’ Eileen, once Chrissie’s best friend. O’Casey’s Dollie is the youngest of the women, and so has no part in these fraught relationships, though she certainly has problems of her own, including a son who has never uttered a word. The miracle she desires is for him to speak. The others hope for different, equally important to them, outcomes.

l-r: Stephen Rea and Kathy Bates in THE MIRACLE CLUB ©Sony Pictures Classics

And so we make the seriocomic journey with them to France. Unforgivable things are said and feelings are hurt, but there are also plenty of jokes. Too bad so many of them offer little beyond the usual stereotypes of Irish Catholics. The actresses try they’re darndest to wring life from a dead screenplay, but not even their earnest efforts can rescue that which has so little life in it.

One of the strangest directorial decisions involves Chrissie, who comes home somehow without a trace of her native Irish accent. Given that she moved to Boston, where there is a large Irish diaspora, how is this remotely possible? She speaks with the most neutral of mid-Atlantic American inflection, no trace of even just Massachusetts present. Was Linney, an otherwise talented performer, not capable of the effort? It’s a mystery.

l-r: Laura Linney and Agnes O’Casey in THE MIRACLE CLUB ©Sony Pictures Classics

Other details irk and annoy, including a seemingly magical bus trip that somehow deposits everyone in Lourdes (and back again) with nary a ferry in sight. Also, are we to believe that Linney, born in 1964, and Bates, born in 1948, are contemporaries? Everything feels off, including that it’s a period piece with no feel for the era. This “miracle club” is very much in need of its own cinematic, if not actually divine, intervention.


Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator, as well as Film Festival Today's Editor. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, Chris is, in addition, lead film critic at Hammer to Nail and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice.

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