I doubt that many people will see “Higher Ground,” playing at Manlius Cinema, which is a shame.
It is a sobering, thoughtful, yet satisfying study of a crisis of faith.
Often this message takes the form of a clergyman who loses his way. Interestingly, this movie focuses on a young mother who is part of a small congregation of very devout fundamental Christians.
There is nothing harsh nor unseemly about the friends and families around her. In fact, they are uncommonly kind and generous, if somewhat pious. Corinne (Vera Farmiga) is the woman, devoted wife and mother, every ounce of her committed to faith and congregation – every ounce but maybe one. There is a small, restrained aspect of her that seeks some physical and intellectual vitality beyond the more forbidding aspects of the religious doctrine in which she lives.
Corinne’s story evolves in stages. There are events that both lead her to the church (“…to Jesus…”) and which then draw her away. It is not an impassioned story, but one of a woman’s insight where elements of hardrock beliefs – her husband’s, her church’s, her own – progressively give way to more subtle feelings and need for growth.
There is a heartbreaking experience where her one true friend and confidante is “lost” to her. A brain tumor is removed. The friend lives, but remains in a vegetative state. Corinne cannot help but see the terrible irony in the congregation’s celebration of her friend’s “salvation.”
We see in Ms. Farmiga’s portrayal the anguish, the chink in the armor, the need to look elsewhere.
This is a story of faith and the long, difficult haul to intellectualize and maintain it. “Higher Ground” is an excellent complement to most anything else currently showing.
Jim Wigge is a Cazenovia resident and long-time film-aficionado. After retiring from his career as an engineer, he has shifted his focus to reviewing movies for the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached through the editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.