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Higher Ground (2011)


Average Rating: 7/10
Reviews Counted: 87
Fresh: 70
Rotten: 17

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 32
Fresh: 26
Rotten: 6

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 2,597


Movie Info

Vera Farmiga's directorial debut, Higher Ground, depicts the landscape of a tight-knit spiritual community thrown off-kilter when one of their own begins to question her faith. Inspired by screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs' memoir, This Dark World, the film tells the story of a thoughtful woman's struggles with belief, love, and trust-in human relationships as well as in God. -- (C) Sony Classics

R (for some language and sexual content)
Directed By:
Written By:
Tim Metcalfe
In Theaters:
Jan 9, 2012
Box Office:
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Higher Ground

All Critics (87) | Top Critics (32) | Fresh (70) | Rotten (17) | DVD (1)

Vera Farmiga makes a heavenly debut as a director with Higher Ground, a compelling drama about a woman's spiritual journey.

Full Review… | October 7, 2011
Top Critic

The film's quiet realism demands from us our own act of faith: We're asked to watch closely and to listen intently in the promise of a greater reward to come. Well, the promise is partly kept.

Full Review… | September 23, 2011
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Farmiga's first film is good enough to make us look forward to her next one.

Full Review… | September 23, 2011
Toronto Star
Top Critic

The film is refreshingly free of proselytizing. In its place, however, is a whiff of condescension.

Full Review… | September 16, 2011
Washington Post
Top Critic

This film might easily have settled for mocking religion. Instead, it's a fascinating glimpse into a culture that forces some people to choose between fitting in and opting out.

Full Review… | September 16, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

At times, these analogies feel forced. But give the rookie filmmaker credit for visual storytelling.

Full Review… | September 15, 2011
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Higher Ground is a fantastic debut for Farmiga.

Full Review… | September 8, 2013

Farmiga challenges herself and the viewer. Some may shrink from that challenge, but thankfully, our gutsy director and star never does

Full Review… | January 10, 2013
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Movies don't often show the religious fervor of characters like these with such earnestness, and Farmiga's layered performance helps the movie through some rough patches.

Full Review… | January 15, 2012

Above all, Farmiga tells Briggs' story with authenticity, going for small, believable moments instead of big dramatic ones.

Full Review… | November 23, 2011
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

There's nothing quite objectionable about Farmiga's film, and that may be its biggest problem: it's content to comfort when it should seek to challenge instead.

Full Review… | October 25, 2011
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

A rich, sometimes rewarding, yet deeply flawed work that sometimes gets things so right that it's hard not to forgive it when it doesn't.

Full Review… | October 22, 2011
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

What makes 'Higher Ground' fascinating is that it also shows how communities like the one Biggs belonged to can also be appealing.

Full Review… | October 21, 2011
KC Active

A shaky but interesting directorial debut...

Full Review… | October 21, 2011
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Vera Farmiga proves herself to be, right out of the box, a terrific director.

Full Review… | October 20, 2011

This cool, calculated who's-hunting-who piece that brings home all the requisite tension, gunplay and fighting with a great deal of cinematic style.

Full Review… | October 18, 2011
The Age (Australia)

Farmiga makes an astounding directorial debut in this emotionally-charged film in which doubt brings challenging questions and faith proves to not be the magic elixir in dealing with life's misfortunes.

Full Review… | October 14, 2011
Entertainment Spectrum

It lubes its audiences' mental gears and sets them to spinning without insulting anyone and without issuing threats of eternal damnation. Subtlety, thy name is Vera.

Full Review… | October 14, 2011

A dignified and graceful first-person account of how a belief system is created and sustained, and evolves.

Full Review… | October 6, 2011
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Farmiga has etched something deeply personal and idiosyncratic here: a movie about a character who is simply trying to understand herself and her world -- and that opens up a lot of angst and conflict.

Full Review… | October 5, 2011

All the performances are totally believable, no-one is satirised, the true faith of the believers is seen in a way as enviable.

Full Review… | October 5, 2011
At the Movies (Australia)

Higher Ground is a delicate exploration of faith gained and lost, told through strong acting and graceful direction by Vera Farmiga.

Full Review… | October 2, 2011
Matt's Movie Reviews

It's repetitious and simply boring for anyone not touched by the holy spirit.

Full Review… | October 1, 2011
Urban Cinefile

A dense and sensitive exploration of life, love and spiritual enlightenment

Full Review… | October 1, 2011
Urban Cinefile

Higher Ground grapples with weighty issues in a mature and pensive manner, reinstating a measure of faith in the way Hollywood's disciples are willing to tackle this thorny subject.

Full Review… | October 1, 2011
Creative Loafing

Audience Reviews for Higher Ground

An intriguing, if ultimately unsuccessful take on religion and how one woman (Vera Farmiga) begins to struggle with her faith while living within a somewhat cultish group of people. Farmiga shows she is a capable director, and her performance is outstanding, but ultimately the movie feels too simple, like she is settling instead of going all-in and taking real risks. In the end, the film benefits from its character development and remains interesting even if it is slowly paced, but ultimately it is just an average offering on the topic of religion that is not too memorable. Far from bad, but skipable.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Faith and Feminism: The Movie.

That's a pretty good way to describe this, the directorial debut of its star Vera Farmiga. It's loosely based on some novelist's memoirs, and it follows a woman named Corrine who has spent the vast majority of her life immersed in a tightly-knit community of Fundamentalist Christians. Her life with them has been fine, but the older she grows, thew more her closeness to them begins to fracture. She starts to have a crisis of faith, and her task of trying to be simultaneously holy and worldly really takes a toll on her and those around her.

This is an emotional, challenging, and thoughtful film, and Expected it to be no less than this given it's and indie, and someone like Farmiga is at the helm. She's a great actress, an intellectual feminist, and very sensitive when it comes to shedding light on the particular subjects the film deals with, namely, how to be a good faithful Fundamentalist, yet also be a believer in feminism.

Besides herself, Farmiga acts alongside a crack cast that includes reliable supporters like John Hawkes, Joshua Leonard, Norbert Leo Butz, and Dagmara Dominczyk among others. All of the performances are quite good, and you can see that this was really an earnest labor of love for them.

Movies like Saved! had previously tackled this kind of subject matter, but I found this treatment to be quite fresh and absorbing. As someone who has personally had his faith tested, I felt I could relate to this film to some degree, but I really don't know how an atheist or some other type of person would react to this. As such, maybe it's best to just treat this as primarily a character study instead of a specific treatise or something.

The music is good, the camera work is decent, and the film is actually about something important, yet is also entertaining. As such, this is definitely one I recommend. I also hope to see more directorial work from Farmiga in the future, because, even though I love her acting, she really shows a lot of promise behind the camera, too.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


Poignant thought-provoking moments strung together in an overall poorly-structured piece. I really wanted to like this movie since there was a lot of material that I felt I could be personally connected with. However, I don't feel like I got to know anybody in the film. Especially the supporting character. Some many "special" relationships felt surprisingly empty due to the lack of depth that the supporting characters are given.
It is an interesting first film and one that had a lot of really good ideas. Sadly though, they werent fleshed out as well as I would have wanted and it was hard to get really immersed in the film.

Reid Volk

Super Reviewer


Huge believability (no double entendre intended) factor in this movie. It managed an insiders look at a closed religious community without becoming either preachy or dismissing the faith of those involved. It's just the story of one woman's trying and failing to feel the affect of pure belief. Nicely told. Ambiguous ending was just the right tone, because matters of faith and what community you chose to belong to are not matters that get settled in two hours or even, sometimes, a life-time.

Bathsheba Monk
Bathsheba Monk

Super Reviewer

Higher Ground Quotes

Kathleen Walker:
You cannot let sexual chemistry burn out. You cannot!
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
Corinne Walker:
Come on holy spirit!
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)

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