Miracles go mainstream in new star-studded film

A story about friends, faith and forgiveness

Film review of The Miracle Club (in Australian cinemas 3 August 2023) – 3 out of 5 stars

Sometimes the drama behind the making of a film can be as compelling as the storyline it is hoping to convey. The Miracle Club has been in consideration for over 20 years despite having Academy Award winner Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) attached to the project from the beginning. After multiple producers and finding the proper funding, award-winning Irish director Thaddeus O’Sullivan finally gets to bring this miraculous tale to cinemas.

Set in the blue-collar community of Ballyfermot, Ireland, in the 1960s, this tight-knit group of women have their faith, family, and friends to keep them going in their township by the sea. One of the year’s highlights is the local church talent show that has a prize of a trip to the sacred French town of Lourdes.

Each woman who performs has a different motivation to go to the baths of the church, where it is said that miracles occur. Lily (Kathy Bates) and Eileen (Maggie Smith) have health needs, while Dolly (Agnes O’Casey) hopes her son may speak for the first time.

Under the guidance of their local priest, Father Dermot Byrne (Mark O’Halloran), they all have faith this trip will change their lives until former resident and friend, Chrissie (Laura Linney), suddenly arrives back in town.

The driving force behind O’Sullivan’s production is the strength of relationships and faith within the community. Even with the stunning settings that beautifully capture the era, the film focuses on the connection between these women and their friendship. Kathy Bates and Maggie Smith carry the weight of matriarchs who have borne the worries of the neighbourhood for years. Yet, they can brilliantly convey how they secretly hope to find “benevolent interference” in this once-in-a-lifetime trip to Lourdes. Along with the endearing inclusion of Agnes O’Casey as the desperate young mother, these performances are enough to make this film worth seeing.

Dolly (Agnes O'Casey), Eileen (Kathy Bates) and Lily (Maggie Smith) in The Miracle Club

Dolly (Agnes O’Casey), Eileen (Kathy Bates) and Lily (Maggie Smith) in The Miracle Club Sony Classics

All the while, the central role of Laura Linney’s tragic and rejected character gives this movie the necessary layers that move past the standard dramatic comedy. The insertion of Chrissie exposes that even in seemingly idyllic settings, darker secrets must be addressed. The overarching themes of hope and faith are complemented with redemptive elements which prove that forgiveness is essential for people to truly heal. That is to say that The Miracle Club is a subtly confronting tale of friendship wrapped in a beautiful package that shows the value of love within a community.

Reel Dialogue: Is there a time limit on forgiveness?

Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

As audiences are introduced to Chrissie, she carries an obvious secret into every scene she enters. Forgiveness is needed by all involved with her situation and reintroduction to this close-knit township.

In scenes like this, stories begin to show how far people are willing to push to the edges of forgiveness. Two things to consider in this discussion are the time limit on forgiveness and why we should forgive at all. Resentment only hurts the one that holds onto it. Bitterness eats away at the soul; only true forgiveness can stop the pain. Also, when people choose not to forgive, a ripple effect transcends relationships and time.

The Bible has much to say on the topic; this might be an excellent place to start when considering some of the concepts from this film on the value of forgiveness.

Laura Linney as Chrissie in The Miracle Club

Laura Linney as Chrissie in The Miracle Club Sony Classics


Russ Matthews works for City Bible Forum as the Product Manager for The Edge and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and getting conversations started on themes from these visual creations. This review first appeared on Third Space and is republished with permission.

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