Lily (Smith) and Eileen (Bates) are lifelong friends who live in a working-class suburb of Dublin that’s actually just a few blocks long. It’s a tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone else, gossip reigns, and grudges carry on for generations. Lily, Eileen and their much younger friend Dolly (Agnes O’Casey) sign up for a talent contest at the local parish. The price? Tickets to Lourdes, the place of pilgrimage in France, a place that the women, all faithful and pious (despite the grudges), have all longed to visit. Every woman needs one Miracles. Eileen found a lump in her breast and didn’t tell anyone. She didn’t go to the doctor either. Her husband (Stephen Rea) and a gaggle of kids keep her busy, and Eileen is resigned to leaving them. Lily can’t get over the death of her son Declan, who drowned many years ago. Dolly’s young son (Eric Smith) can’t (or won’t?) talk, and Dolly hopes for a cure.
The rhythm of this small neighborhood is established immediately, and the tone is warm, inviting and cozy. John Conroy’s cinematography begins with stunning shots of Irish green and blue sea, magnificent rocks and cliffs, Ireland incarnate. But he shows equal care with the small block of houses and their colored doors, the intimacy of the environment. John Hand’s production design is also a major contribution: the houses feel lived-in, realistic and not condescendingly presented. It’s homey and real.
Of course, Lily and Eileen have secrets, which all come to a head when Chrissie (Linney) comes back to town just in time to catch the talent show. She’s been out of town for decades, and clearly, there’s a lot of bad water under the bridge. Eileen can barely look at him; Lily turns her nose up at her. Dolly has no idea what’s going on and immediately warms to Chrissie. Before you know it, through twists, turns, and coincidences, the quartet makes their way to Lourdes, praying for personal, physical, and spiritual miracles.