“The Miracle Club”: Story Drags, Performances Shine

One of the main reasons I wanted to see this film was that I’m a fan of pretty much all the female leads. With Laura Linney, Maggie Smith, and Kathy Bates, this film is packed with stars of high caliber. So I was sure that the performances would be excellent and the story sounded like it had an interesting premise. After watching, I found that the performances are emotional and expressive as expected but despite the wonderful acting, the story drags and lacks a true emotional punch. 

“The Miracle Club” is a comedy film directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan that tells the story of Chrissie (Laura Linney) who has just come back for her mother’s funeral, having left forty years prior, leaving a rift between her and her mother’s best friend Lily Fox (Maggie Smith) and her cousin Eileen Dunne (Kathy Bates). She soon befriends young mother Dolly (Agnes O’Casey) who wants a miracle to help her son to speak. The four find themselves on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in France, the four working class women dealing with the emotional trauma of Chrissie’s departure as they rediscover their friendships and find their own personal miracles. 


One of the elements that is well treated is the subtle signs of the time period. The clothes, the vehicles and small touches, such as suitcases, illustrate quickly that the film is set in the sixties. This is also demonstrated in the way Chrissie is treated on her return and her reasons for having left. And that time period is critical for understanding the film because at its heart it is about the choices that women make and the freedom they seek to be themselves even in the face of the men in their lives. Each woman has to make the choice to make the pilgrimage even if their husbands would prefer them not to and to find a way to move away from the past and heal the hurt each feels in their lives. And that piece of the story is well related and skillfully written. 


One of the other aspects that did make the film lighter was the comedic moments, especially with Kathy Bates’ character. She has several hilarious moments, most particularly in her interactions with the actor playing her husband. But that comedy continues as she discovers the truth of her miracle. Maggie Smith has some wonderfully witty moments as well that help generate laughter. She plays her character feisty and it adds humor. 


What truly makes this film shine are the performances. In particular, I found myself most impressed with Laura Linney. She was expressive, warm and emotional in her performance as Chrissie, as she seeks a different kind of miracle, healing from pain that the character has experienced for forty years. Her performance is the highlight of the film. She has a rich and beautiful dynamic with Maggie Smith as Lily Fox, both the best friend of Chrissie’s mother and the mother of the man she loved. Their interactions are some of the most emotional performances. Laura Linney also has a fantastic dynamic with Kathy Bates as Eileen, much more antagonistic but equally skilled as the pair have to find a way to heal their bond. Maggie Smith is phenomenal, nothing less than excellent in her role while Kathy Bates is particularly funny and wonderful. I also loved the performance of Agnes O’Casey as Dolly, who is struggling to find a way to connect to her son. Her performance is warm and lovely to watch. As the priest guiding the women on the pilgrimage, Stephen Rea is skilled as well. The performances do much of the heavy lifting of making the film work and creating a funny comedy. 

What doesn’t help the film is the slowness and predictability of the film. That slow pacing, typical for the time period, drags down the humorous moments and lessens the emotional impact from the wonderful expressive acting. The film ends up being not very dynamic and while still enjoyable, would have been better with either expanding some of the scenes or cutting some of the less necessary moments. That said, the film still was enjoyable, especially with the performances in the hands of these skilled actresses. 

If you like beautiful and expressive films about the power of miracles and emotional healing, this film might be a good fit. While the story drags, performances shine. Laura Linney is incredible, giving a particularly emotional performance. Maggie Smith and Kathy Bates are excellent. So too is Agnes O’Casey. The theme of the film is well expressed and I love that each of the women has a moment to realize their truth and find their own miracle. It is a joyful and hopeful film that many will enjoy. 

Rating: 3.5 miracle baths out of 5. 

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