Starring: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, Dagmara Dominczyk
Directed by: Vera Farmiga (debut)
Written by: Carolyn S. Briggs (debut) and Tim Metcalfe (“The Haunting in Connecticut ”)
It takes strength for someone to tell themselves that what they thought was important for their entire life might not matter anymore. How does one redefine their belief system when it’s all they’ve known?
This is one of the struggles pious housewife Corinne Walker (Vera Farmiga) must face in “Higher Ground,” Farmiga’s directorial debut that follows her in the lead role as an evangelical church member who begins to seriously question her faith after tragedy strikes.
Based on Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir “This Dark World,” “Higher Ground” maneuvers its way alongside its main character, from her years as a naïve child to her age of enlightenment as a mother who bases the family’s upbringing on the word of the Lord.
It’s not until Corinne begins her transformation, however, when “Higher Ground” starts to explore more deep-seated ideas behind organized religion and how someone who has only followed a righteous path their entire life can all of a sudden want more. Before her gradual conversion becomes evident, Farmiga doesn’t offer us much insight into what it means to be a “prayervert” or why this group of believers is motivated to search out something they can’t see.
In fact, as Corinne, Farmiga only scratches the surface during her early years and wastes an opportunity to really delve into the topic of serving God through the eyes of a child. As an adult, Corinne becomes aggravated when she doesn’t know how to allow the Holy Spirit to move through her so that she may speak in tongues.
“Higher Ground” is an understated attempt by Farmiga, who can only grow from this experience behind the camera. She knows first-hand how great directors do it (she’s worked with Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme) and it’s obvious she is passionate about her subject matter, but in her first go-around it doesn’t necessary translate to a narrative with enough purpose.