Miracle in the Woods
Two women find that their inheritance includes a secret tenant who has waited decades for justice.
This incredibly heartwarming story that spans generations puts a particular focus on women, primarily Lilly (Della Reese), who journeys a lifetime in the film, from 1920s prohibition with a husband who’s a bootlegger to modern day as an old woman with tales to tell. When the teenage girl from the Simpkins line, Gina (Anna Chlumsky), an earnest videographer, stumbles upon a worn-down cottage on her family’s property that’s inhabited by Lilly, the two become fast friends.Complex family tensions are revealed throughout between Gina’s mother Sarah (Meredith Baxter) and Gina’s aunt Wanda (Patricia Heaton), whose own relationships are stealthily intertwined with Lilly’s story. Upon Gina and Sarah’s mother’s death, they must decide what to do with the property where the mysterious elderly woman Lilly has been living for decades. The moral dilemma to remove her from what has been her home her entire adult life is colored by the tragic story she tells about the loss of her son that is connected to and parallels the lives of the other women. The film clicks along at a healthy pace by way of this intriguing narrative that never misses a step by way of flashbacks. Lilly calls Gina “Field Pea,” a nickname she gave Gina’s great grandmother in their youth, convinced in the confusion of old age that Gina is, in fact, this same person. Interestingly, Chlumsky plays both present-day Gina along with the actual Field Pea in all the flashbacks, which serves to deepen this convincing connection that lies amongst them all. The moral dilemmas confronting Sarah in particular help us see her character grow as she moves from a selfish, opportunistic mindset to one filled with compassion and regret. As the women work to unite Lilly with her long-lost son, they too mourn their losses and yearn to be united with one another. The story is beautifully woven to exhibit how these narratives parallel and affect one another, showing how lives and experiences are inextricably connected, which is what helps create meaning and purpose. I laughed and I cried, especially over Della Reese’s poignant and powerful performance as Lilly. This southern tale of family ties has some tough spots for young people, perhaps, as some of the flashback scenes show the traumatic incidents in Lilly’s life such as her fear of her husband as he deals with her in a threatening manner in one scene, and especially when she loses her son—and of course there is both a happy and tragic ending. However, the redemptive and restorative qualities this film exhibits bring context to any emotional and anxious moment that may arise. We are proud to award Miracle in the Woods the Dove Seal of Approval for 12+.