Film review: ‘Higher Ground’
Wed, Sep 21, 2011 (4:45 p.m.)
American films about religion tend to fall into two categories: bland, sanctimonious “Christian” movies that exist solely to preach or secular movies that portray religious people as closed-minded hypocrites. So Higher Ground, the directorial debut from actress Vera Farmiga, occupies a refreshing middle ground, tackling religion as a source of both comfort and frustration, a force that can save people from the depths of despair but can also constrain them from exploring their true selves. Based on the memoir by Carolyn S. Briggs, Ground follows a fictionalized version of Briggs (Farmiga) as she at first embraces the church along with her husband (Joshua Leonard), and then gradually comes to understand her spirituality as something more complicated and ambivalent. Farmiga sometimes leaves things a little too unformed (a number of seemingly important characters end up doing very little), but the movie’s tendency to offer more questions than answers creates an honest and nuanced portrayal of religion that is alternately confounding and fascinating.