When I know I’m writing a review on a film, I attempt to view it with a critical, unbiased eye. But as I watched Higher Ground, I couldn’t help it. I was swept away. Every so often a film comes around where you find yourself forgetting about the parking meter, the lady crunching popcorn next to you or the serious troubles of your own life. This movie possesses a gentle power to baptize you, and with its story, you’re completely consumed.
I don’t know how she did it. Vera Farmiga completed Higher Ground, her directorial debut, starred in the title role and did all this while pregnant in a 26-day shoot. No wonder the movie deals with miracles. Based on Caroline S. Brigg’s memoir “This Dark World”, the film chronicles one woman’s struggle with her faith.
Corrine (played by Farmiga in her adulthood, Farmiga’s real-life sister Taissa as a teen and McKenzie Turner as a young girl) has accepted Jesus into her heart. After enduring a childhood of parental domestic dispute, she falls in love with rocker Boyd Holbrook and becomes pregnant. At only seventeen, the two lovers marry and give up their rockstar dreams for their baby girl Annika. After a terrifying event, the couple endures when Annika is just a toddler, and they turn to the Lord. Along their journey to draw near to Christ, Corrinne and Boyd encounter religious fanatics (who warn her against tempting men with her maternity dresses), religious skeptics (like her sister would choose cocaine to hymns any day) and the lukewarm territory that exists in between.
One of the most touching story lines’ blossoms from Corrine’s free-spirited best friend Annika. Played by the captivatingly spunky Dagmara Dominczyk, Annika, who is also a member at the church, attempts to teach Corrine how to keep her marriage’s sexual chemistry alive. And as she shows Corrine the sketch she has drawn of her husband’s penis, and we notice that they infiltrate the walls of the bedroom, we can’t help but die laughing. Moments like these are what keep the film from becoming preachy or Corinne’s story from becoming solemn. But this film is definitely not for the weak stomach. It’s brutally honest depiction of tragedies and heartbreaks that make us all question, “Where were you then, God?” fall right to the pit of your gut. Anyone who has dealt with pain (and yes, that means you… everyone) and looked for an answer in return, will connect with Higher Ground.
Not only does Farmiga prove herself directorially, she also delivers a multi-dimensional performance. Her deep blue eyes couldn’t be more sincere when she prays to the lord, “Where are you? I don’t feel you. I need you, Lord.” And yet she is able find humor in her faith as well. A scene where she attempts to speak in tongues, searching for the Lord in her bathroom mirror, jumps right out of the “drama” genre and right into “Rom-Com” (but this time the guy to win is God, not Matthew McConaughey).
Farmiga explained her attraction to the project in an interview last April, "I always admired men and women of great faith." And that’s exactly why the film soars. Farmiga treats each character in the film with utmost care and respect and not one comes off more intelligent than the other. Culture today tends to present religion with either mockery or radical praise and this film does neither. It just simply demonstrates the events in a person’s life and those events speak for themselves.” I wanted to make a film about believers and non-believers without judging either,” and as Farmiga hopes, she does just that. The end of the film, shocking in it’s irresolution, leaves plenty of interpretation up to the viewer and refreshingly, let’s us be our own judge.
But I have said too much already. I would have just as willingly sat down to write the review and only simply said:
See this film.
Because that’s all I needed to. And also, job well done Mrs. Farmiga. If this is your debut, your future looks like nothing but higher ground.