The Miracle Club (2023) Film Review

There’s a tiredness about the film. It’s as if the mere presence of our superstar triumvirate was supposed to be enough to satiate the viewer, the actual storyline be damned. It’s a flavorless Irish stew.

Smith! Bates! Linney! It should have been an emotional blockbuster. Unfortunately, director Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s first theatrical release since “The Heart of Me” in 2002 is just blah! Set in Dublin in 1967, the film is content to coast on large dollops of Oirish shtick. Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates, and newcomer Agnes O’Casey are the long-suffering Dublin housewives who win a trip to the city of Lourdes in southern France, where the Virgin Mary is reported to have “appeared” to the young Bernadette Soubirous, and miracles happen. Laura Linney is the visiting Irish-American who left under mysterious circumstances and has now returned from New York to bury her mother. Her sudden departure all those years ago resulted in a family tragedy, and, as a result, she’s not exactly welcome in the Bates and Smith households. Nevertheless, for some unknown reason, other than she’s Laura Linney or she’s a masochist, her character decides to plod along to Lourdes as well!

The Miracle Club

In his extensive work for television, such as “Call the Midwife” and “Vera,” O’Sullivan has always had a gift for capturing a given place at a given time. Here, he throws away the opportunity of capturing a country that, in the mid-sixties, was still a theocracy, firmly under the thumb of the Vatican City, and where the Lourdes pilgrimage was almost a rite of passage. There’s a tiredness about the film. It’s as if the mere presence of our superstar triumvirate was supposed to be enough to satiate the viewer; the actual storyline be dammed.

The Miracle Club

Part of the reason, I think, is that the project was lying dormant for so long. Originally written by Jimmy Smallhorne over twenty years ago, I imagine that the original draft of the script was a far grittier affair than what we see here. Smallhorne wrote, directed, and acted in his debut feature, the award-winning 2by4 (1998), about a closeted gay construction worker in New York and was exceptionally good opposite Joan Allen in “When the Sky Falls” (2000), the Roman-a-clef on Irish reporter Veronica Guerin. He grew up in Dublin’s western working-class suburb of Ballyfermot and, according to “O’Sullivan, he wrote the script to honor the women in his family who loved and influenced him in his formative years à la Chantal Akerman in ”Jeanne Dielman”. Unfortunately, the script was doctored by Andrew Wakefield apologist Tim Prager (“Hear the Silence”) and the galvanic production team of Joshua Maurer and Alixandre Witlin who are infamous for their terrible remakes of old movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Last Tycoon.”

The Miracle Club

The end result is surprisingly lifeless. It’s only after a very cursory visit to Lourdes – courtesy of some stock footage and CGI that comes across as cheesy – that the actresses let their guard down as their characters open up about the hard knocks that life has given them. It is here that O’Casey comes into her own. The great-great granddaughter of the Irish playwright Sean O’Casey, her character has a little boy who doesn’t speak, and she is the only one in the cast who gives a relatable performance.

O’Sullivan has always had a way with actresses. So, it’s a pity that, with all the talent at his disposal, he only manages to recoup twenty-five percent of his artistic investment.


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