At a time when “cancel culture” has made the concept of forgiveness all but obscure, “The Miracle Club,” which follows four Irish women on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, highlights the reality that true healing can only come through reconciliation, mercy and relationship.
Set in 1967 Ireland, “The Miracle Club” follows three generations of close friends living in the Dublin community of Ballygar. Lily (Maggie Smith), Eileen (Kathy Bates) and Dolly (Agnes O’Casey) share a common dream: to win a life-changing pilgrimage to the sacred town of Lourdes, renowned for its miracles and drawing millions of faithful devotees annually.
Seizing an unexpected opportunity, the women set out on their quest, each eager to find healing for various ailments: Eileen has a potentially cancerous lump in her breast, Lily is seeking inner peace after meddling in her late son’s life, and Dolly desperately wants her mute son to speak.
But the trio is unexpectedly joined by Chrissie (Laura Linney), who arrives in Ballygar for her estranged mother’s funeral. Chrissie is grappling with her own wounds, having been banished to America several decades earlier. As the four women embark on the transformative journey, their well-laid plans face a series of unforeseen challenges, stirring up long-forgotten wounds that demand resolution.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Linney, whose impressive career has included award-winning roles in television, film and theater, reflected on forgiveness as a central theme in the film — something she believes is lacking in today’s society.
“Relationships are not always easy; they’re particularly not easy when secrets are involved or when there’s a sense of betrayal, particularly when people are young,” she said. “When you’ve been wounded by betrayal or secrecy as a young person, it molds and influences the rest of your life.”
“So, the fact that this story deals with a woman who dealt with all of that and then was able to reconcile with the people who she was so wounded by is very unusual,” Linney continued. “I doubt it happens as much as I would like it to, but I certainly believe that it’s possible. There is something very moving about being healed, emotionally and spiritually healed.”
Directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan, religion — more specifically, Catholicism — plays a central theme in “The Miracle Club.” Every year, it’s estimated that more than 3 million pilgrims visit Lourdes in search of a miracle. According to a 2022 CBS “60 Minutes” report, over the last 160 years, bishops from the Catholic church have recognized 70 medical miracles connected to The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Linney said she was previously unfamiliar with the Lourdes phenomenon: “It was interesting to see from a cultural point of view what Lourdes is,” she said. “It’s many things: It’s a spiritual home, for many, it’s a place for reflection and absolution and redemption. And then it’s also a commercial venture, with gift shops, things being sold there, tchotchkes here and there. It’s a fascinating place to learn about.”
While acknowledging the reality of physical healing, “The Miracle Club” highlights how miracles aren’t always grandiose or tangible. They’re often subtle, seen in the mending of a seemingly irrevocably broken relationship or the healing of deep, unseen wounds.
And while the film delves into themes of faith and miracles, it also acknowledges the complexities of life and the realization that miracles don’t always unfold as desired. It’s in these moments, it reveals, that faith is truly tested.
“Sometimes heartbreak is a good thing,” Linney said. “Sometimes you don’t get what you want and it’s really for the best, and you just can’t see it until you’re in the place where you’re supposed to be. You can look back at the relationships that failed with someone you wished you had married, and then 10 years later, when you’re happily married to someone else, you think, ‘Oh, thank God. I’m very lucky that didn’t work out.’ But at the time, you’re heartbroken and you can’t see it.”
Linney is no stranger to mastering female characters navigating intricate emotional landscapes, from starring as Elizabeth Proctor in Broadway’s “The Crucible” to the steely Wendy Byrde in the crime drama “Ozark.” Similarly, “The Miracle Club” presents a strong and nuanced portrayal of women, highlighting their resilience in the face of difficult circumstances.
The actress described “The Miracle Club” as a “period piece,” highlighting the challenges women faced during the ’60s, serving as a reminder of the progress women have made. As a mother herself, Linney said she found resonance in the film’s exploration of the complexities and guilt that mothers often experience.
“Being a mother has been one of the greatest things that that I’ve ever been able to do,” she said, adding she’s thankful for the progress made in valuing women and providing resources to help them navigate the challenges of parenthood.
She expressed hope that viewers, especially women and young girls, will see the close-knit bonds between female friends and the support they can provide one another, whatever their stage of life.
“I hope viewers see how close women can become, how much they support each other and help each other and how much we rely on each other,” she said. “There is certainly a sense of community within the female friends that you have. Those friendships are extremely tight and extremely close and very, very profound for your life.”
Though billed as a comedy, “The Miracle Club” is pensive at turns, grappling with difficult issues including abortion, death and illness. It’s rated PG-13 for language and mature themes. But at its core, the film’s message of overcoming adversity and the power of forgiveness and human connection is supremely relevant.
“I think there is something satisfying about watching a bad situation become better,” Linney said. “Wherever I look, there are bad situations all over the place, and you have a sense of, ‘What in the world is going to happen to us?’ It is encouraging, I think, to see that the connections between human beings can be powerful, and you can work through what you don’t think you could ever work through.”
“The Miracle Club” opens in theaters on July 14.
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