Higher Ground

2011

Higher Ground

Critics Consensus

With Higher Ground, star and debuting director Vera Farmiga takes viewers on a challenging spiritual journey whose missteps are easily overcome by its many rich rewards.

81%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 91

62%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,758
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Higher Ground Photos

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

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Cast

Vera Farmiga
as Corinne Walker
Joshua Leonard
as Ethan Miller
Norbert Leo Butz
as Pastor Bill
McKenzie Turner
as Young Corinne Walker
John Hawkes
as CW Walker
Matthew Dubas
as Salesman
Taylor Schwencke
as Young Wendy Walker
Jillian Lindig
as Mrs. Tuttle
Bill Irwin
as Pastor Bud
Taissa Farmiga
as Teenage Corinne Walker
Kaitlyn Rae King
as Teenage Wendy Walker
Boyd Holbrook
as Teenage Ethan Miller
Noah Bowman
as Renegade
Booker James Winter
as Biology Teacher
Luella Roche
as Younger Abigail Miller
Sarah Banks
as Younger Lily Miller
Frank Goodyear
as Dr. Frank Barnes
Lucy Owen
as Joanna
Nina Arianda
as Wendy Walker
Sarah Little
as Older Abigail Miller
Zoe Pipa
as Older Lily Miller
Mathew Biltonen
as Gabe Miller
Eli Rubinstein
as 7-Year-Old Boy
Tom Cherwin
as Man in Counseling Office
Laurel S. Andretta
as Woman in Counseling Office
Karen Keefe
as Receptionist
Jack Gilpin
as Dr. Adams
Natalie Thomas
as Liam's Wife
Terry McKenna
as Pawn Shop Worker
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Critic Reviews for Higher Ground

All Critics (91) | Top Critics (32)

Audience Reviews for Higher Ground

  • Mar 11, 2014
    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 S Super Reviewer
  • Feb 25, 2012
    *** out of **** Corinne, the protagonist of "Higher Ground", is a woman who was born and raised around religion; within the boundaries of a strictly Christian community. As a child, she did not question her God; she was thankful for what he had supposedly given to her, or at least, she just followed the teachings of both the Lord and the good people of her community. Those were the days in which ignorance was bliss; but as Corinne grew older, she became more intellectually complex. This is only normal; but would it be normal, in the eyes of the Church-going folk, to even consider abandoning her faith? We follow Corinne from childhood, to her teen years and finally to adulthood (where she is played by Vera Farmiga). From her teen to her adult years, we witness the change in her beliefs; and frankly, there doesn't seem to be much at first. When she was at the ripe age of 20, she was doubtful when it came to God and his word, but a tragedy - which both she and her entire family evaded - changed everything, and now she considers herself one of those "born again" Christians. From then on, she lives a happy adult life, married and with children. One could say she's a housewife, but then again she's far less vulnerable and desperate than that. I admired Corinne throughout the picture because she was independent, free-spirited, and intelligent to the point where she knew when to say enough questioning is enough. The film, which marks the directorial debut of actress Farmiga, is a story about faith and individualism; among other things. It deals with some touchy subjects indeed, but it treats them with enough respect so that we can invest in both the drama and some of the comedy that follows with them. The story is one of inconsistent tones - one moment, it's a tense drama, and another it gears more towards satirical territories - but to say it's uninteresting would be a lie. No doubt, I've seen a great many films dealing with philosophical themes surrounding religion, but for what it is, "Higher Ground" is fairly provocative, or at least it's good enough to engage. And it certainly makes me want to see more out of Farmiga; not only as an actress, but yes, also as the woman behind the camera. What keeps the film from being great is, alas, its flawed simplicity. People need to understand one thing, if they happen to walk into this movie: it will not offer up insights in the form of big ideas, but rather insights in the form of smaller ones. Insightful is the right word to describe this kind of movie; one that is intelligent and entertaining, but also a little disappointingly typical. My problem was that I could only resonate with the film thematically; and therefore, some of the actual emotion ran almost completely dry. I still watched as it unfolded, but it tends to lack the payoff that would have made it, well, more than the sum of its parts. Nevertheless, I really admire this film. It's a feel-good religious tale; populated by genuinely nice people, save for a single mean one, played by John Hawkes (who can play mean quite well). I left the film feeling, you know, kind of nice; given that the film is intriguing and simple in healthy, equal doses. Sure, it doesn't go out of its way to promote a state of intellectualism, but for most modern movie-goers, it should satisfy as well as entertain. I see it as imperfect, but still plenty solid; not to mention also very, very well-acted. What Farmiga lacks in visual style she makes up for in a general sense of restraint and control; on the material, no less. She seems to understand it, and she might even possess a sort of emotional connection with it. That is, after all, why people make movies like this one in the first place, right? That gets me thinking that, even though I have my complaints about the movie, I still liked it. It will probably hit close to home for a lot of people, and even I could connect to specific aspects of it. I wish it could have explored its themes with more depth, but out of the essential ingredients that it bears, there's a sort of startling beauty. Religious, non-religious; I think it's safe to say that the film has a wide audience, and that's why I'm recommending it.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 13, 2012
    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 V Super Reviewer
  • Oct 27, 2011
    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 M Super Reviewer

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