THE MIRACLE CLUB Travels Familiar Territory

The piece below was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.

Agnes O'Casey as Dolly, Kathy Bates as Eileen Dunne and Maggie Smith as Lily Fox sign up for
the 'All Stars Talent Show' in THE MIRACLE CLUB.
Photo credit: Jonathan Hession. © themiracleclubcopyright 2023. Courtesy of Sony Pictures

The Miracle Club stars a formidable cast; Kathy Bates, Laura Linney and Maggie Smith play characters from the same neighborhood in Dublin (in an unusual turn of events, American actors play Irish here instead of the other way around). It’s 1967 and their local church is sponsoring a bus to Lourdes, holy site of Saint Bernadette’s vision of Mary. Friends Eileen (Bates), Lily (Smith) and Dolly (Agnes O’Casey, Starz’s Dangerous Liaisons) enter a talent contest in hopes of winning two free tickets. Younger Dolly is mother to Daniel, a small redhead who doesn’t speak; Lily and Eileen’s troubles are less visible. Meanwhile Chrissie (Linney) has returned to town after a 40-year absence.

These noteworthy performers – even newcomer O’Casey – do their best with the material. Stephen Rea and Niall Buggy (Mamma Mia!) add some lighthearted moments as husbands left to fend for themselves as their wives go on the trip . The vibrant cinematography, eye-catching costuming and thoughtful production design make for a movie that is pretty to watch. The bright tones of Chrissie’s outfits and Dolly’s neon dresses pop on the screen.

Laura Linney as Chrissie listens to Mark O'Halloran as Fr Dermot Byrne in the church, before the funeral in THE MIRACLE CLUB.
Photo credit: Jonathan Hession. © themiracleclubcopyright 2023. Courtesy of Sony Pictures

The script, however — written by a team of three men — lacks a distinct voice, and the dialogue can be clunky. While the film explores themes of prejudice and forgiveness, the tone verges on maudlin instead of something more subtle. The “mystery” of Chrissie’s departure from her home country is predictable, and the clues given throughout are far too obvious.

The Miracle Club feels like something we’ve seen before. For that reason, it could be a comforting watch for some folks. But even when the film touches on challenging topics like suicide or the loss of a child, the filmmaker’s preference for corny and manipulative emotion makes it difficult to truly connect with the work as a viewer.

The Miracle Club opens in theaters nationwide on Fri, July 14.

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