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Higher Ground

Higher Ground

Director: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, Norbert Leo Butz, Michael Chernus

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, Norbert Leo Butz, Michael Chernus

Actress Vera Farmiga makes her feature directorial debut with this adaptation of Carolyn S. Briggs' autobiography, This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost. Haunted by a low sense of self-worth ever since her childhood in the 1960s, Corrine finds her happy family falling apart by the


Actress Vera Farmiga makes her feature directorial debut with this adaptation of Carolyn S. Briggs' autobiography, This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost. Haunted by a low sense of self-worth ever since her childhood in the 1960s, Corrine finds her happy family falling apart by the time she reaches high school, and seeks comfort in the arms of talented young guitarist Ethan. Later compelled to join a tight-knit fundamentalist community that offers both security and spiritual nourishment, Corrine and Ethan discover a sense of peace that ultimately proves short-lived once the more conservative tenets of the congregation start to take priority. Her illusions of the ideal faith-based community shattered, Corrine begins to question her entire belief system as her life starts to unravel once again. Joshua Leonard and John Hawkes co-star.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
You can count on one hand the number of American movies that take the question of religion seriously. Not the big themes like "Is there a God?," but the more immediate question of how do you live your life in an honorable Christian way every single day, and what happens when you grow to genuinely question your faith? Vera Farmiga's directorial debut, Higher Ground, addresses these issues with a low-key intensity -- it strives for truth as much as the main character does. Adapted from a memoir by Carolyn S. Briggs (she co-authored the screenplay with Tim Metcalfe), Higher Ground follows Corinne (Farmiga) during her quest, beginning at childhood, to live a Christian life. We first see her at a young age, witnessing her parents' affection for each other, and soon enough raising her hand when a local minister asks a children's group who is ready to receive Christ. In her teen years she falls for classmate Ethan (Joshua Leonard), the leader of a popular local rock band. They marry young, have a baby, and after a scary car accident on the way to a gig that almost kills their infant daughter, decide to rededicate their lives to their religion. They eventually join a church led by the paternalistic Bill (Norbert Leo Butz). Probably because Corinne purposefully chooses to lead a somewhat sheltered life, she's drawn to the free-spirited Annika (Dagmara Dominczyk), her best friend in the congregation. Annika seems to have found the right balance of devotion to God -- Corinne is blown away by her friend's ability to speak in tongues -- and enjoying earthly delights -- in one of their many bonding moments they each sketch their husband's penis. Their friendship brings out the best in both women, and over the course of a decade or so, Corinne grows to rely on Annika when her faith in the Lord and her husband starts to waver. There really isn't much narrative drive in the movie, and that's just fine because Farmiga -- as both an actor and a director -- wants to go deep into the character. Her naturalism as a performer extends to her work behind the camera; she has cast the film to perfection, and gives her actors enough space so that they all register, even if none of them gets as much screen time as Corinne. John Hawkes is typically superb as her loving father, Butz makes Bill into one of the few cinematic religious leaders who doesn't seem at all corrupted by the power he has, and Dominczyk turns Annika into the kind of best friend we all wish for. Farmiga also has a gift for editing that breaks away from standard convention. She'll focus on characters that seem to be secondary to a scene, and in doing so makes connections that deepen our understanding of everyone in the movie -- a tactic used to great effect during a birthday party late in the film. While the movie treats the characters' religious beliefs with nothing but respect, it doesn't shy away from pointing out the occasional ridiculousness of certain behaviors, a prime example being a lesson Bill offers the men on how to satisfy their wives' sexual needs. The scene is a comedic highpoint not because it's mocking their lack of knowledge, but because the awkwardness of the situation can't be ignored. Farmiga's humanistic approach builds power very slowly, almost imperceptibly. There's a refrain throughout the early part of the film that Corinne isn't musical, that she's never found her instrument. The film's concluding scene is a speech she gives in front of loved ones and the congregation -- she testifies about her belief as well as her doubt. In that moment we see she's found her instrument, that whatever the status of her marriage and her religious conviction, she's finally able to articulate to others the powerful emotions within her. It's a remarkable climax that showcases how good an actress Farmiga is, and illustrates how smartly she's directed her first feature.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Deleted scenes, Commentary with Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard & Renn Hawkey; The Making of Higher Ground

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Joshua Leonard Ethan Miller
Norbert Leo Butz Pastor Bill
Michael Chernus Ned
Vera Farmiga Corinne Walker
McKenzie Turner Young Corinne Walker
Donna Murphy Kathleen Walker
John Hawkes CW Walker
Matthew Dubas Salesman
Taylor Schwencke Young Wendy Walker
Jillian Lindig Mrs. Tuttle
Bill Irwin Pastor Bud
Alden Rosakranse Tim
Taissa Farmiga Teenage Corinne Walker
James Noon Kirk
Kaitlyn Rae King Teenage Wendy Walker
Boyd Holbrook Teenage Ethan Miller
Brandon Boyer Mike
Harrison Basch Renegade
Noah Bowman Renegade
Booker James Winter Biology Teacher
Warren Haynes Warren
Luella Roche Younger Abigail Miller
Sarah Banks Younger Lily Miller
Dagmara Dominczyk Annika
Barbara Tuttle Deborah
Molly Hawkey Molly
Ebon Moss-Bachrach Luke
Frank Goodyear Dr. Frank Barnes
Reagan Leonard Hope
Charles Glaser Woody
Lucy Owen Joanna
Nina Arianda Wendy Walker
Joseph Sinagra Cop
Sarah Little Older Abigail Miller
Zoe Pipa Older Lily Miller
Mathew Biltonen Gabe Miller
Sonia T. Gittens Nurse
Eli Rubinstein Seven Year Old Boy
Amy Helm Amy
Machan Taylor Machan
Jorgen Jorgenson Jorgen
Tom Cherwin Man in Counseling Office
Laurel S. Andretta Woman in Counseling Office
Karen Keefe Receptionist
Jack Gilpin Dr. Adams
Oliver Wood Oliver
Sean Mahon Liam
Natalie Thomas Liam's Wife
Terry McKenna Pawn Shop Worker
Deborah Hedwall Faye

Technical Credits
Vera Farmiga Director
Amela Baksic Costumes/Costume Designer
Carolyn S. Briggs Executive Producer,Screenwriter
Jonathan Burkhart Executive Producer
Brice DalFarra Executive Producer
Claude DalFarra Producer
James Demer Sound Mixer
Renn Hawkey Producer
Carly Hugo Producer
Sharon Lomofsky Production Designer
Michael McDonough Cinematographer
Tim Metcalfe Executive Producer,Screenwriter
Lauren Munsch Executive Producer
Matt Parker Producer
Alec Puro Score Composer
Jon Rubinstein Producer
Colleen Sharp Editor


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