- Summary: Higher Ground, depicts the landscape of a tight-knit spiritual community thrown off-kilter when one of their own begins to question her faith. Inspired by Carolyn S. Briggs' memoir, This Dark World, the film tells the story of a thoughtful woman's struggles with belief, love, and trust. Faith, love and honesty are the cornerstones of this story of a woman who learns that no matter how many times she loses her footing, she has within herself all that's necessary to get to a higher place. (Sony Picture Classics)… Expand
- Director: Vera Farmiga
- Genre(s): Drama
- More Details and Credits »
This is a really good movie. Farmiga's acting and her direction provides the visual representation of the isolation one feels when one begins to doubt the beliefs of the community. Her character experiences the soft sexism of a traditional society that holds prescribed roles for women and consequently and inadvertently discourages her personal development. The community is fundamentalist Christian, but anyone who has struggled with a belief in anything can relate to this character's alienation.… Expand
Vera Farmiga continues to impress me as much as a person as she does as an actress. Like her life, her thoughts appear meaningful, deep and mercifully free of chaff. You can see it in her performances, and you can see it in her first film as director, Higher Ground. Higher Ground is the story of Corinne (Farmiga), a woman who has been defined by others since childhood, beginning with her mother's statement, "She's not musical." Despite her ambivalence Corinne responds to Pastor Bud's (Bill Irwin) persuasive "altar call" to young vacation bible school captives, but the experience is all but ignored by her mother who is absorbed with her own tempestuous marriage to Corinne's father (John Hawkes). Corinne moves quietly into adolescence with her books and her writing until Ethan (John Leonard), the romantically compelling lead singer/guitarist of the Runaways, recruits her to be his songwriting collaborator and devoted fan. Shortly thereafter they become lovers in a field where the detached Corinne observes a large sow watching them while Ethan plows away. Ethan then marries his pregnant bride, but the demands of supporting a family put Ethan's music career on hold and the marriage on rocky ground. Soon, however, the young family finds solace, support and society in a newly formed Christian group, led by the charismatic Liam and his wife, where Ethan finds an outlet for his music and a framework for his life as husband and father. The group provides a cozy, extended family for them, but over time Corinne becomes increasingly aware of how the group controls and manipulates its members. Corinne's own desire to express herself results in open disapproval from the group and private reprimands from Liam's wife. As Corinne begins to pull away, Ethan grows even more controlling, and in his fear he finally resorts to violence, placing the final wedge between them. Corinne's ultimate escape to refuge and personal freedom gives her space to question her beliefs and pursue her own spiritual journey.
This large cast has some nice surprises, including Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Mark, the spiritual brother whose closeness to Corinne raises eyebrows, and Nina Arianda as Wendy, Corinne's sister whose messy life is used as an object lesson for the flock. The casting of Taissa Farmiga as the young Corinne provides excellent continuity in the resemblance between the teen and adult Corinne, and the young Farmiga appears to have responded well to her mother's direction, giving an excellent performance. The casting, the period wardrobe and the hairstyles place the cast firmly in the 60's, and if you've ever had the surreal experience of being baptised in a river, this will be uncomfortably familiar. The soft focus cinematography is an interesting choice, which gives the film the dream-like ambiance of a reverie. I could wax on about this lovely film for hours, but what I like best about Farmiga's work here is the respectful way she approaches the subject matter. Rather than contriving a plot to pronounce judgment on Christian fundamentalist groups, she uses Christian fundamentalism as the backdrop for a woman's examination of her life as she seeks the freedom to express herself. Refreshingly, Farmiga does not use this film overtly as a soapbox, subjecting us to speeches thinly disguised as dialogue, but instead she tells an engaging story which progressively leads us to observe how easily and innocently people can turn over control of their minds and lives to others. The backdrop of this plot could just as easily have been any cohesive group that does not permit dissension within its ranks. Farmiga's performance as Corinne is both subtle and luminous, and as director, she deftly guides the cast to portray familiar types without making them into caricatures. I highly recommend you run to your nearest art house and see this movie, which I easily rate eight out of ten.
This review also appeared at www.filmdilettante.com… Expand
6This drama begins with the protagonist as a young girl who finds Christ at church. As she grows, she becomes a woman (Vera Farmiga), who struggles with her faith in a small community of conservatives that first look like hippies. As director, Vera Farmiga has filled her cast with effective, genuine performances and the story is an intelligent examination. However, there's a lack of emotional dynamics that renders the film lacking in soul. Interesting, but somewhat flat.… Expand
Is this supposed to be a serious film, a mockumentary or a comedy? Ms Farmiga has many one-liners delivered like a comedian. Extremist religion, no matter the faith is disturbing. How can so many not believe science, not believe facts, and not believe their feelings? Falling back on the common thread that an invisible, fictional, being up in the clouds determines their life. Corinne ignores everything that makes any sense, her feelings, the facts before her eyes and why? Religion will tell me it's their faith. It's actually peer pressure. It is hard to stand up to all around you and ask questions. Teach your children to question authority. No more just accepting on faith. Do you accept priest sex abuse? If a reason is not available, don't accept on faith or deny because their are no facts; go out and seek the truth! It took way to long, almost 2 hours, for Corinne to act. Thank G, well whomever, she did. There may be those who give this film high marks, perhaps because it points out the hypocrisy of religion, but it was evident early in the film, and I could not for the life of me see why Corinne didn't get it. If looked at as a satire, it's not close to Religiousity, maybe it deserves higher marks. But if it's serious, C- or 4 is barely what it deserves.… Expand