Higher Ground Reviews
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.
she amazingly portrays a woman who attempts to look beyond her faith and in the process is looked down upon because of it
choosing to believe something else, paying the consequences of it, and learning a great deal more about her belief system
it might question a few things too much about religion but Farmiga's directorial debut shines regardless
Because of the intensity of the drama in the Secret Sunshine, I liked it somewhat more (although I appreciate understated movies too). But true superiority of the "Secret Sunshine" versus "Higher Ground" is in its ending, which is much more masterfully done. And, while "Higher Ground" tends to be provocative in more sophomoric ways (although I loved the scene when she asks the "therapist" if he'd enjoy watching her burn in hell). "Secret Sunshine" asks more serious philosophical questions such as whether the God has the right to forgive a murder when the victim's mother hasn't forgiven him first.