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Higher Ground 2011 R CC

4.1 out of 5 stars (55) IMDb 6.3/10

Vera Farmiga's directorial debut, HIGHER GROUND, tells the story of a thoughtful woman's struggles with belief, love and trust.

Starring:
Joshua Leonard, Norbert Leo Butz
Runtime:
1 hour, 51 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama
Director Vera Farmiga
Starring Joshua Leonard, Norbert Leo Butz
Supporting actors Michael Chernus, Vera Farmiga, McKenzie Turner, Donna Murphy, John Hawkes, Matthew Dubas, Taylor Schwencke, Jillian Lindig, Bill Irwin, Alden Rosakranse, Taissa Farmiga, James Noon, Kaitlyn Rae King, Boyd Holbrook, Brandon Boyer, Harrison Basch, Noah Bowman, Booker James Winter
Studio Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Blu-ray
Professional critics were fairly lukewarm toward this film, although even then, many acknowledged that elements within it are exceptional. For one thing, it is very unusual to see a serious work that treats religion--and a rather fundamentalist form of Christianity at that--seriously and without insult, irony, or undue reverence. Most films focusing on related topics either satirize people of faith (Saved!) or offer syrupy endorsements of faith Fireproof). Rarely is faith depicted as the mixed bag it often is. While "Higher Ground" doesn't have the same scope and grandeur, in that one particular--treating faith seriously--it reminded me most of The Mission (Two-Disc Special Edition).

I was surprised and delighted to see all of the five-star reviews already posted. My concern is that many people would miss the uniqueness of this film and mistake it for either a hatchet job (because church life and serious spiritual commitments are depicted warts and all--it's not all smooth sailing for this male-dominated, anti-intellectual sect) or an endorsement of fundamentalism (because it's not all bad, either--the movie just assumes that faith provides comforts, joys, principles, and experiences that can have transcendent value for those who hold to it).

Sexuality, which is often a hot topic for fundamentalists, is treated frankly and realistically, and consequently provides some of the movie's greatest moments of humor. C.S.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
Vera Farmiga, while 5 months pregnant in real life, tackles yet another topic that could have been inflammatory although with her, it is not. Using an honesty and bravery which she is so easily capable of in this her directing debut. She is looking at the subject of one woman's (Corrine Miller, also portrayed by Farmiga) faith and the trust she has in it. Along with this comes the eventual questioning about herself through the vehicle of the 1970's Fundamentalist movement. This portrait has a lovely soundtrack (Alec Puro) that brings this all to life and is definitely worth noting. Farmiga directs without the condescending or mocking tone towards Christianity which is often present in films. It has an intelligence along with a broader appeal, to the believer and the nonbeliever alike. It is a question of personal faith, not of righteousness through Christianity.

The movie starts with Corrine's childhood in Vacation Bible School with the pastor, Bud (done surprisingly by Bill Irwin). The picture quickly shifts to Corrine's teenage years. She (Taissa Farmiga, Vera's actual sister) is a writer and meets her future spouse, Ethan Miller (here, Boyd Holbrook, then an older, Joshua Miller. The younger Ethan wants her to write for his rock band. They eventually marry and a short while after their first daughter is born. A heart-pounding tragedy then happens. This leads the couple to their established adult family life in a fundamental tightknit church community. Ethan has given up the rock life and is an elder in their church. Corrine is a devoted and devout young wife and mother. Add to the mix her best friend, Annika (Dagmara Dominczykz) whom Corrine is so close to. She adds light, color, and life to their friendship.
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Format: Amazon Video
This is a must see. As other reviewers have pointed out, it treats the subject matter in a very non-judgmental way, simply portraying one woman's struggle without caricaturing the faith community. A unique perspective. I highly recommend this one.
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Format: Blu-ray
This is a review of the movie DVD disc only.

The film doesn't have the look of a plotted, story-boarded narrative. There's no imposed arc or resolution to the gentle moments of a woman's life shown here. We see her low-key movement toward, and then away from, religious attendance.

Contrary to what the film's cover might lead one to believe, this is no indictment of another megalomaniacal cult leader. There are no bad guys here. This film does a remarkable job presenting a series of realistic, slice-of-life scenes. We feel as if we are eavesdropping in a woman's everyday kitchen, at her everyday church services.

The producers also did a remarkable job finding actors to play the lead as a girl, then as a teen, then as a mature woman. For once, there does appear to be a continuity of features, unlike most films involving time progressions in which it's impossible to believe that child grew into an adult who would look like that.

This whole film is absorbingly realistic and touching. As movie-goers, we might be used to more dramatic action, so it takes a while to calm down into the more reflective mood of this piece. For example, it was only when I viewed this movie through for the second time, that I caught the moving coincidence of the scene in which Corinne sits on her church steps, patting a stray dog who has temporarily attached itself to her.

This isn't a chick-flick. Nor is it a charge against religious fanaticism. Nor is it any kind of standard beginning-middle-and-end story. This movie is unclassifiable - like life itself.
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