Monday, February 13, 2012

Movie Review: "Higher Ground" 2011


"Believers, keep on believin'......God is gonna show you higher ground"  - Stevie Wonder

 "Higher Ground" is a 2011 film directed by and starring Vera Farmiga.  It is adapted from the memoir "This Dark World" by Carolyn S. Biggs.

Those preferring that their Christian themed films follow the lead of "Facing the Giants" or "Courageous" may find "Higher Ground" to be lacking.  It is likely that many Christians would find the film to be largely about a woman's journey from saving faith as a child to abandoned faith as a disillusioned wife and mother of three.

However, I found the film to be a very fair depiction of Christian community in a hippie generation "Jesus Movement" church (patterned after a style of church that emerged in the late 60's and early 70's).

Farmiga plays Corinne, who is "saved" in church as a child in the 60's.  The film starts there and takes us on her spiritual journey, from her wayward teen years (that result in a shot-gun wedding) to her baptism in a lake as a newly married young woman.  Though there is an interesting subplot about the squelching of women's' voices in the evangelical church, the majority of the story centers on Corrine and how she navigates life and faith in the 70's hippie church.  It is in this setting that her crisis of faith begins to emerge.  Tragic situations with wayward siblings, sick friends, and a troubled marriage bring Corinne to a critical moment in the film where she stops singing "It is Well With My Soul" with her fellow parishioners.......it is clearly NOT well with her soul at that moment. 

It is at this point that a lesser film would put Corrine in a 70's "I'm ok, you're ok" self-actualization mode and conclude that ultimately the notion of Jesus and a higher power is more destructive to a person than positive.  Corrine starts down that path, and has a real opportunity to abandon her family and "go find herself".  The conclusion is not as heavenly and sappy as "Courageous", but neither is it as cynical or preachy as many secular films are about the perceived hypocrisy and hogwash in the American church.

If you liked "The Apostle" (Robert Duvall).........you'll enjoy "Higher Ground".  It's a fair portrayal of church life, and the protagonist "keeps on believin'" through it all.

Rating: R for language and some frank sex talk..........my score - 8/10.

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