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Exploring Forgiveness in the New Film ‘The Miracle Club’ With Director Thaddeus O’Sullivan

After numerous Marian apparitions in 1858 and a rich history of miracles, millions travel to Lourdes, France every year in search of healing. Father Dave interviews Director Thaddeus O’Sullivan about his new movie in theaters, “The Miracle Club,” which follows one group’s fictional pilgrimage to the holy site in the 1960s. The movie hits theaters this weekend.

Starring Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates, and Laura Linney, the film follows three Irish women who win a trip to Lourdes, and what happens when an old estranged friend of theirs also joins the trip. Thaddeus explains how the movie’s journey was decades in the making. “The writer first wrote the first draft probably about 20 years ago, I got involved about 10 or 15 years ago,” he says, before the project stalled. “I got a call two or three years ago from the producer to ask me if I’d come back. So I did, with another writer, and we did another draft; another 100 drafts, actually. We finally made it by sheer willpower. Maggie Smith and Kathy Bates had been interested in it for a very long time. So people were always interested, it’s just they could never quite get the script right.”

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Thaddeus is from Ireland, but discusses his personal connection to Lourdes. “I grew up knowing about Lourdes; there was always somebody going or coming,” he says. “My father had been very ill at one point, my mother prayed to Our Lady to intercede…and he did get better. So my parents went to Lourdes to thank Our Lady for her intercession. My mother always referred to it as it was an answer to our prayers.” 

Father Dave notes one line in the movie where a priest says, “You don’t come to Lourdes for a miracle, you come for the strength to go on when there is no miracle.” Thaddeus says, “[The priest] knows that there’s a lot to be gained from Lourdes; it’s not just about the old-school miracle. This is about people discovering something about themselves, in an atmosphere where there’s a communal interest in being together and having a spiritual experience. If you are a part of that, it will be effective, even if you’re a non-believer.”

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Forgiveness is a central theme of the film, as the women reconcile with years of grudges and strained relationships. “My strong feelings about the characters is that they’re all carrying guilt for what they had done…The two older women; they had a lifetime of guilt,” Thaddeus says, “It was only in Lourdes that, [when] confronted by the Laura Linney character, [guilt] begins to surface, and that’s where the challenges are.”

Father Dave notes the A-list cast, which features multiple Oscar winners and nominees, and Thaddeus discusses his experience working with them. “They were an absolute joy,” he says, “They were both inspiring and also very easy to work with. When you consider what they’ve done in their lives, and the massive parts that they’ve played…it was extraordinary to see their focus on the characters, their ability to tease out all kinds of detail in improvisation, or just in simple things, in a reading of the line itself. It was with magic, really. I was very privileged.”