So, The Miracle Child is billed as a movie about a wee girl who starts having miracles attributed to her. It’s not, it’s a queer film where the B-plot is headlined instead of the love story. Whether that’s to serve marketing or the mystery of the romance is kind of irrelevant, because once you’re watching it, this film is hella gay.
Bristling with barely suppressed sexual desire and the aching yearning of first love, the film centres on Lino, a young guy who holds his family together by working for a pittance as a Deliveroo driver and lovingly raising his younger sister, while his mentally ill mother sinks further into woolly-minded forgetfulness. He seems to be about 19, and he still shares a room with his little sister, who is about 9 or so. They live in a tiny flat with three months’ back rent due, in a poor neighbourhood. Yet, he still finds time to be a teenager, hanging out with his mates, playing footie, and going out on the randan.
His best mate is Mario. As the film begins we follow Mario’s dawning awakening that he doesn’t just love Lino as a friend, but longs to touch, to kiss, to hold him. For much of the film, Lino’s sexuality remains ambiguous, but it seems less the sexual aspect that would be an issue for him than the love. Lino needs Mario. Like, NEEDS him. He has been completely deprived of love from his mother, and has no father to look to. He has had to hold everything together for his little sister, whom he dotes on, and no one ever asks him how he’s doing or if he needs a hand. Mario is the only person he can be real with, rely on, the only person who is always there. He can cry with Mario, get a hug, sleep in his bed when he can’t handle going home. And he absolutely would never risk their relationship by changing it into something more. As the film goes on his unawareness of the nature of their mutual love seems to become more and more like willful blindness. Mario is so scared of rejection and Lino is so scared of change, your heart aches to see one of them take the leap.
Anyway, the film begins with his younger sister Annaluce seemingly bringing a dove back to life after it smacks face-first into the tits of the Virgin Mary statue. This storyline plays out with as much humour as drama, with the neighbourhood starting to revere her as a saint as the ‘miracles’ start to stack up. Of course, they be miracles or they may have a reasonable explanation, but it’s more about how the whole community changes their attitudes towards the family. They go from being completely isolated, with only Lino, still a teenager, the only one concerned with his sister’s welfare or his mother’s mental state, to being surrounded by people praising both mother and daughter, bringing money, gifts and an overwhelming amount of attention. The landlord who threatened to kick in their door for his money brings a prayer candle and forgives the debt.
The question is, why did they need a dead dove to do all this? The landlord could have forgiven the debt just as easily before he thought God was watching. Everyone knew the family was struggling, but the money only starts to flow when they all think they might get something out of it. Lino reviles the hypocrisy of it, and worries about Annaluce’s wellbeing in the midst of this religious hysteria. However his mother seems to feel a lift in her years-long depression, feeling hope for the first time.
Ironically all of this only pushes Lino further out his family. His bed is covered in gifts for Annaluce, who is now pre-occupied with praying for the whole neighbourhood. His mother dislikes his disbelief and constant complaining about not being able to get in his own home or sleep in his own bed for chanting pilgrims.
The Miracle Child of the film’s title is Lino, not Annaluce. She is repeatedly called a saint and miracle child by the neighbours, but it is Lino who laboured without fanfare or notice, who cared for those who could not care for themselves, who was patient and selfless, and worked and struggled, and who is going through this heart-rending unspoken love for his best friend alone. He was all these blessings ignored.
Which is why his love story with Mario has such desperation and vulnerability. One scene in particular – don’t worry, you’ll know it when you come to it – manages to walk this fine balance between tentative awkwardness, heart-breaking yearning, and profound eroticism. One of the best love scenes I’ve seen in recent years, complex, ambiguous but ultimately intimate and tender.
Excellent romance, with the rollercoaster of life weaving all through it.