Saturday, September 10, 2011

Higher Ground

"Higher Ground" is the directorial debut of Vera Farmiga as she stars in the story of one woman's lifelong struggle with her faith as she strains to raise her family on a Christian fundamentalist commune. Working from a novel by Carolyn Briggs, Farmiga's directorial hand is strong and kind here as the film is not judgmental of the people it portrays and strictly observes her protagonists feelings and emotions as she grasps with both her own faith and the strange notion of it her church holds. Many of the scenes in "Higher Ground" are powerful, such as the bus crash into a pond where the members of her husband's band try to salvage their equipment before the drowning baby or when a church wedding counselor relates the story of an adulterous politician to Farmiga and follows it up by saying she will burn in hell. Several other scenes feel out of place and counter to the main objective of the film, such as Farmiga's daydreams, and still Vera Farmiga puts forth an excellent performance here, fully conveying her inner turmoils even in situations where she is dare allowed to speak them.. The rest of the cast is uniformly fine and I really liked John Hawkes, who is oddly cast as her father. "Higher Ground" is a twofold triumph for Vera Farmiga on both the acting and directing front, and is pretty remarkable for how nonjudgmental it is for a film about religious fundamentalism.