WORDS: Kate Holland
Last week I took a friend to see The Miracle Club, directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan. We were two of about eight people in the entire cinema complex not watching Barbie, and we caught eyes a few times as we processed our alternative experience.
Yes, the film featured women grappling with the rules that society had imposed on them (some men too), but it was set in 1960 religion-dominated Ireland, not pink-dominated Barbie Beach-ville. Just as the judgement back then was harsh, the tone was sometimes bleak. It started with a funeral and meandered slowly through a reconciliation arc peppered with heartbreaking realisations.
By pure coincidence, the last time I took this friend to the movies we saw the wonderful film, Lady Bird. Like Barbie, it was written and directed by Gretta Gerwig (it was her solo directorial debut). Like The Miracle Club, it explored the relationships that shape us and the beliefs that define us.
But where Lady Bird was a coming-of-age film about creating your path, The Miracle Club was all about shedding, or at the very least coming to terms with, the baggage you’ve collected along the way. And my goodness the central characters were so weighed down. They’re also incredibly interesting, and not without humour.
As the four women take a miracle-seeking pilgrimage to Lourdes, France their individual nuance is portrayed with expertise by a stellar cast that includes Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith and Laura Linney. Meanwhile, the earnest warmth and hope that emanated from rising talent Agnes O’Casey made her character truly shine.
Thank goodness Bates and Linney held onto their hope to work with Maggie Smith. This film isn’t perfect, but it’s a journey well worth taking.