The Miracle Club


It was in 1956 that Maggie Smith made her first appearance on the big screen in an uncredited role as a party guest in the film Child in the House. If you told that young actress that she would go on to appear in over sixty films, including one of the most successful franchise of all time (Harry Potter), win two Oscars and become a national treasure to boot, she’s unlikely to have believed you.

Here she is then, at the age of 88, starring in her latest film, with both Kathy Bates and Laura Linney for company.

boom reviews The Miracle Club
So I told him, oh let Kathy do it, she can play Irish i'm sure...

It’s 1967, and returning to the Irish coastal town of Ballygar is Chrissie (Linney). It’s been awhile since she was last home, forty years to be precise, and has only come back for one reason, the death of her mother.

Many of the local residents aren’t best pleased to see her, including her old best friend Eileen (Bates), but are too distracted right now to care, as there’s a talent show taking place at the local church, with first prize being a trip to Lourdes. It’s going to be hotly contested, as many of the locals are in need of a miracle, and are keen to book their seat on this particular pilgrimage.

boom reviews The Miracle Club
Oh am I the mad bitch from Misery?! Damn straight I am!

Irish director Thaddeus O’Sullivan probably couldn’t believe his luck when he secured the level of talent he got to work with on this project. But you can see the appeal it would have had, as female-strong casts don’t come along all that frequently.

The overall theme is healing, with all manner of pains, both emotional and physical, needing addressing throughout the community. It’s all done with a great sense of warmth and charm, with only the sharp-witted Irish humour missing, sadly. It’s a film that has three writers credited, which is never a good sign for a production this small; it’s the kind of intimate story that could have just had the one voice telling it, instead of a motley trio present here.

Still, the performances are what sell it, with Bates and Linney making the most of their parts. But it is indeed Smith who steals the proverbial show, where in one scene in particular she lets rip with a wave of vulnerability that will no doubt choke the most hardened of audiences. She looks incredibly frail on screen throughout, but she makes the very most of it for the sake of her character, which is what a pro with her experience would do.

There are a few other actors who manage to shine, including relative newbie Agnes O’Casey as Dolly, and veteran Stephen Rea in what is essentially a male token role.

Certainly O’Sullivan does well in capturing the period extremely well, but it’s just a little disappointing that the script couldn’t have been a little sharper, especially when you consider the quality of the cast involved.

They say that miracles are effortless – according to those sad saps on Instagram, at least – but the truth here is that perhaps a little more effort, as far as this film is concerned, would have been more praiseworthy.

we give this three out of five