THE MIRACLE CLUB. Journey to Lourdes in the Style of ‘Green Book’ [REVIEW]
Poland and Ireland share many common features: unfavorable weather, a tumultuous history, difficult relationships with neighboring nations, Catholicism, alcoholism, and soccer. That’s why movies set in the Irish reality often seem to accurately describe the Polish one as well. The Miracle Club is no exception. A film about four women living in 1960s Ireland – an elderly lady, a weary housewife, a young mother, and a local outsider – could just as easily tell the story of a group of Polish women. They are so familiar and realistic, dealing with such similar problems.
The protagonists embark on a pilgrimage to Lourdes from Dublin, each with a slightly different purpose. The oldest among them, a ailing Lilly (Maggie Smith), simply wants to spend time with her friends and see the holy place before her death. Eileen (Kathy Bates) strongly believes that Our Lady of Lourdes will heal the lump she discovered on her chest—this straightforward (but strong-willed!) woman has no intention of going to the doctor, putting all her hope in God. The youngest, Dolly (Agnes O’Casey), seeks a solution for her non-speaking, withdrawn son, a puzzle to every expert she has consulted, as autism awareness is not yet widespread in the 1960s.
Unexpectedly, a fourth woman, Chrissy (Laura Linney), joins the trio—she’s the daughter of their mutual friend Maureen, who scandalously left Dublin forty years ago and only returned now for her mother’s funeral. Lilly and Eileen are clearly unfriendly towards the newcomer, quickly transforming from friendly old ladies to “gossiping grandmas from the Church.” However, the shared journey to Lourdes allows the women to spend some time together and resolve misunderstandings from the past. In addition to emotional moments, the pilgrimage will be rich in humor. There will also be a Polish touch in the form of a mischievous elderly woman causing a scene during the “holy bath” in Lourdes.
Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith, Laura Linney – the cast alone makes The Miracle Club worth watching. Each actress creates an interesting, psychologically complex character; it’s clear that their joint performance brings them joy. They are seasoned professionals who have nothing to prove to anyone, showcasing their acting class effortlessly and casually. Agnes O’Casey, the younger and less experienced partner, also performs very well; the same goes for Stephen Rea as a husband learning to appreciate his wife and Mark O’Halloran as a priest.
A heartening, feminine story, closely tied to life – that’s how The Miracle Club can be succinctly described. If you enjoyed The Book Thief and Green Book, you’ll likely also appreciate Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s latest film. The film’s greatest success lies in creating compelling characters whose experiences engage the audience. The film is full of empathy for those making various controversial life decisions (like Chrissy), while simultaneously not condemning anyone. Everything happens without ridiculing the “scarf-wearing grandmothers,” and instead, with respect for those who naively understand religion due to, for example, lack of education or simply a lack of hope for another way of improvement in the face of serious illness or the suffering of a loved one.
The Miracle Club is the type of film that might be overlooked by critics but is sure to resonate with audiences. For many people, especially women, it may prove to be significant on a personal level. In a very “human,” unexaggerated, and surprisingly intimate way, it speaks about the most basic female experiences that are universal and transcendent of generations. I know that The Miracle Club will touch both my mother and my friend. That’s why it’s truly worth going on this pilgrimage to Lourdes with a group of slightly eccentric Irish devotees.