MAGGIE Smith’s off to Lourdes this week and hoping for a miracle. Kathy Bates and Laura Linney too. It’s quite the coach trip for fans of acting royalty.

First, though, we must set the scene. This is The Miracle Club. Smith and Bates play lifelong friends, Lily and Eileen. They live in a small and close knit suburb of 1960s Dublin. It’s the sort of place where everyone knows everyone else and all have a gossipy stake in each other’s business.

Yet, secrets haunt the cobbles. Eileen has found a lump in her breast and told nobody. Not even her doctor. She’s far too busy running around after her husband (Stephen Rea) and children. As for Lily, she’s a lot less ‘over’ the loss of her son, who drowned some years ago, than she lets on to the neighbourhood.

Each harbours a wish for change and believes their faith alone can deliver it. When a local talent show offers the aforementioned jolly to Lourdes as its first prize then, the opportunity feels too good to be true.

There’s a great air of homeliness to The Miracle Club, which comes directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan and the producers of the BBC’s recent Howard’s End adaptation. Cinematographer John Conroy leans heavily into the lush Irish countryside and brightly coloured Dublin doors to the benefit of warmth and heart, already emphatic in Bates and Smith’s affecting performances.

Linney plays local absconder Chrissy, a younger woman whose return to the neighbourhood stirs up old and unresolved conflicts. Rounding off the quartet, Agnes O’Casey plays the fresh faced Dolly, who hopes to find a cure in Lourdes for her son’s inability - or, perhaps, unwillingness - to speak.

There’s no prizes for guessing where all of this is going. It’s exactly the sort of film you’d expect and more televisual than cinematic. Not that this is an inherent flaw. There’s charm aplenty, along with the odd patchy Irish accent. Smith nails it, Bates is less confident.

The Miracle Club has been twenty years in the making. Smith has been attached from the start and must surely have begun to wonder whether the film would ever be made. Quite why a solid script and adequate funding took so long to be found is something of a mystery. There’s an audience ripe and ready for this one.