By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – A pilgrimage to Lourdes provides the framework for the tender drama “The Miracle Club” (Sony Classics). By turns humorous and touching, director Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s delicate film will appeal to grown-ups and perhaps mature teens. But it’s neither aimed at nor suitable for kids.
In a hardscrabble neighborhood of 1967 Dublin, best friends Lily (Maggie Smith) and Eileen (Kathy Bates) excitedly prepare to journey to the sacred destination in the company of a third pal, Dolly (Agnes O’Casey). Dolly is hoping that the trip will cure the mysterious muteness of her young son, Daniel (Eric D. Smith), while Eileen is secretly worried about a lump on her breast.
The dynamics of their expedition are suddenly transformed, however, by the unexpected — and initially unwelcome — return of Chrissie (Laura Linney), a former member of the main duo’s social circle who’s been absent in America for 40 years. Chrissie’s reappearance has been prompted by the death of her estranged mother, with whom both Lily and Eileen were close.
The reasons for Chrissie’s exile are not immediately made clear, though a connection to the long-ago drowning death of Lily’s son, Declan, is apparent. Despite the fact that Lily and Eileen continue to shun her, Chrissie decides to join the tour to France which is to be presided over by Father Dermot (Stephen Rea), the wise and sympathetic, if not very forceful, local cleric.
What follows is a sensitive exploration of tragedy and spiritual healing as long-festering emotional wounds are laid bare and the possibilities of reconciliation and renewed relationships examined. Although the confessions of wrongdoing required to restore harmony and peace of mind are interpersonal, rather than sacramental, they are positive examples of moral honesty.
Questions are briefly raised in the dialogue about the authenticity of the apparitions to St. Bernadette Soubirous and the miracles attributed to Our Lady of Lourdes, and such skepticism may grate on believers’ nerves. They may also wince at the repetition of an all-too-common Irish expletive that at least approximates misuse of the Lord’s name.
As for viewers focused on the effectiveness of the tale, as penned by Jimmy Smallhorne, Timothy Prager and Joshua D. Maurer, they may feel it takes too easy a shortcut to forgiveness. Yet, in the age of the three-hour comic book adaptation, there’s something to be said for a modest, character-driven movie that comes full circle in a mere 90 minutes.
The film contains mature themes, including abortion, one direct and several oblique profanities, a rough term and occasional crude and crass language. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
(John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter @JohnMulderig1.)