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Laura Linney and Mark O’Halloran in The Miracle Club (OSV News/Jonathan Hession, Sony Classics)

In The Miracle Club, a group of Irish women have a tantalising dream – to escape the gauntlet of domestic life by winning a pilgrimage to the sacred French town of Lourdes. Source: Australian Catholics.

This is an Irish tale set in 1967 Dublin. As the title word “miracles” indicates, there is more than a Catholic tone to this drama with touches of comedy and an all-star cast.

Maggie Smith, in her late 80s, is Lily, a Dublin housewife (a long way from Downton Abbey). Kathy Bates, an Oscar winner for Misery, is Eileen, while the always versatile Laura Linney is Chrissie. They are supported by an Irish cast led by Stephen Rea as Eileen’s husband. Agnes O’Casey portrays a young mother, Dolly (O’Casey), who is sad that her young son has not yet spoken.

The movie is set in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council and sees the beginning of many changes in the Church, and the dialogue with what were called “the signs of the times’”

The local parish puts on a talent show to raise money for a charity. Dolly and Lily are back-up singers for Eileen’s rendition of He’s So Fine. The prize is two tickets to Lourdes.

So, we are introduced to Lourdes and the story of St Bernadette and her experience in apparitions in southern France in 1858. Lourdes is renowned for its miracles and cures.

Eileen recalls the film of The Song of Bernadette (1943). This has the support of genial parish priest, Fr Dermot Byrne (O’Halloran). However, there is sadness in the town. An elderly woman has died and her estranged daughter, Chrissie (Linney), has returned to the town after 40 years for her funeral. There is a sad story here, a reminder of much Catholic harshness, the unmarried pregnant girl, the severity of judgment, the effect on the young father, silence and alienation for decades, and sad secrets for both Lily and Eileen.

With some manoeuvring, everyone sets out for Lourdes. And here is the challenge for the audiences. The believers in the audience will have no difficulties in the concept of miracles. However, for many others, this Catholic story will smack of another world of which they are not part. And, as voiced in the screenplay, there are always suspicions of superstition and presumptuous faith.

In only 90 minutes, we immerse ourselves in the Ireland of the Catholic past, go on pilgrimage to Lourdes, and experience a bit of challenge to where our own lives might need some healing and reconciliation.

Review by Fr Peter Malone MSC, Jesuit Media.

The Miracle Club: Starring Laura Linney, Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates, Agnes O’Casey, Mark O’Halloran, Mark McKenna, Eric D Smith, Stephen Rea, Niall Buggy. Directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan. 91 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes and coarse language)


The Miracle Club (Jesuit Media via Australian Catholics)