Film Review: Vera Farmiga Wrestles Religion in ‘Higher Ground’

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CHICAGO – The subject of religion in America is rarely portrayed honestly in the movies, with its power to both inspire or offend. Vera Farmiga makes her directorial debut and plays the lead character in the religious-themed “Higher Ground.” Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

Points are immediately given to Ms. Farmiga for taking on the story, based on a memoir by Carolyn Briggs. No matter what you feel about organized religion, whether a church goer or secularist, Higher Ground is a thought provoking message film, and relevant to today. The story is uneven, but the sincerity of Farmiga’s direction is in every frame.

Farmiga plays Corinne, a woman who is shown at the beginning of the film being baptized in a river. She is a new convert to a small Evangelical Christian church and her path to that moment is shown in flashbacks from her 1960s childhood to the present, around the 1980s. Her younger self is shown cynically testifying at a Sunday School, her love as a teenager for a rock star named Ethan morphs into marriage and the child that motivated their marriage is nearly killed in a bus accident. This is the incident that leads to the baptism. The reprieve from God due to their near miss in the bus is the impetus for Ethan (Joshua Leonard) and Corrinne to change their lives.

The church that represents them allows Corinne to meet Annika (Dagmara Dominczyk), a free spirit who flaunts her carnality along with her ‘speaking in tongues’ to the Holy Spirit. But the rules in the church, most having to do with a women’s subservience, begins to chip away at Corinne’s sense of belonging. Her marriage starts to disintegrate when her husband begins to relate to her only through church doctrine. Annika has a sudden and major brain tumor. The road to redemption becomes rocky, and Corinne must sacrifice everything that is familiar, including her devotion to faith, to save herself.

“Higher Ground” continues it’s limited release in Chicago on September 2nd. See local listings for theater and show times. Featuring Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, Dagmara Dominczyk, Taissa Farmiga and Bill Irwin. Screenplay by Carolyn S. Briggs (from her memoir) and Tim Metcalfe. Directed by Vera Farmiga. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full “Higher Ground” review.

Converting: Vera Farmiga as Corinne in ‘Higher Ground’
Converting: Vera Farmiga as Corinne in ‘Higher Ground’
Photo credit: Molly Hawkey for Sony Pictures Classics

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full “Higher Ground” review.

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