Vera Farmiga (Down to the Bone, The Departed, Up in the Air) plays Corinne, a young wife and mother whose journey of self-discovery throws a tight-knit community off-kilter. Growing up a teenage misfit in the 1960s, young Corinne (played by Farmiga's sister Taissa) settles down early with her high school sweetheart, local band guitarist Ethan. When the new family is saved from a near-tragedy, Corinne and Ethan discover and incorporate a new sense of spirituality into their lives. However, over the next 20 years, small injustices accumulate and chip away at Corinne's certainty. Higher Ground depicts one woman's transitioning belief system over a lifetime, and how a crisis of faith can come about in the absence of any single crisis at all.
Farmiga's patient filmmaking imbues her epic story with a contemplative introspection, making her directorial debut a personal study on the nature of doubt—whether it's of religion, leadership, or self. Cementing her as a bold new directing talent, Farmiga's adaption of Carolyn S. Briggs' memoir This Dark World is an authentic and resonant rumination on a woman who learns that no matter how many times she loses her footing, she has within herself all that's necessary to get to a higher place.
Director's Statement Collapse
I was pregnant with my second child from the start of financing to the end of post-production on Higher Ground. The movie became important to me on a very deep, psycho-spiritual level as my daughter grew inside me. I began asking, "How do I produce and raise this little lady to become a formidable, courageous, dynamic, amazing woman? How do I teach her that there is an intrinsic nature each of us has that is really beautiful and needs to be honored? How do my choices as an actress, the stories I participate in telling, how will they influence her?" Not until becoming a mother did I have full understanding of my impact as an artist and storyteller.
The film is dedicated to my daughter, Gytta. It's a reminder to her to stand firm in what she knows in her heart of hearts, to be exactly who she is, with great passion and positivity. The only way to change anything is to do it from your genuine self. The film is a prompt to always strive for openness, receptivity and vulnerability. These are the dulcet keys for harmony of mind and spirit, harmony with the divine.
The story explores the four tiers of love: agape, eros, philia, and storge. It was relevant and unique to me in the way it represents female friendship—as a refuge and escape into harmony, not conflict or competition, as is often represented between women. There is great depth and great rapture in the protagonist Corinne's friendship with Annika. Through their intimacy, the friendship becomes a vehicle of self-definition for Corinne. Corinne admires Annika's clearly defined, unapologetic and voluptuous sense of self and thus changes for the better, in the process of identifying with her. The story stresses that love between women is important. We love each other because in each other we see the woman that we would love to be. The film is a plea to my daughter to always see me as a true friend.
I have found that the spiritual life is hard to master. It necessitates making arduous and, at times, painful journeys within ourselves and within our struggling, imperfect, and all too human souls. In our story, Corinne is searching for an authentic faith, for authentic hope and love within all her relationships—in her marriage, with family, with friends, within her community, with God, and ultimately, with herself. This kind of search sometimes requires that we make a leap into a world of uncertainty. This leap is an expression of courage and strength, rather than fear and weakness.
The film asks, "Is it possible for faith and doubt to coexist? What is a healthy soul? What holds us back from inner growth?" Christianity is the "location" of the film, not the subject, concern, or issue. The film could have just as easily been set in a variety of faiths or cultures. The film is not about the rights and wrongs of religion; it is about those moments in life where you lose sight of who you are, what you believe, and where you are going. Those moments of stumbling. The film is about finding your footing. Finding security. Feeling secure in the knowledge you will make it to higher ground. It's OK to fall short, OK to be inadequate, OK to be afraid, OK to have doubt. But there will be a path through all these things, and you possess within you all you need to draw yourself up to higher ground, to your highest self.
Cast & Credits Collapse
Primary Cast Vera Farmiga, John Hawkes, Donna Murphy, Dagmara Dominczyk, Joshua Leonard, Norbert Leo Butz
Director Vera Farmiga
Screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs, Tim Metcalfe
Producer Claude Dal Farra, Renn Hawkey, Carly Hugo, Jon Rubinstein, Matt Parker
Editor Colleen Sharp
Director of Photography Michael McDonough
Production Designer Sharon Lomofsky
Executive Producer Jonathan Burkhart, Brice Dal Farra, Lauren Munsch
Composer Alec Puro
About the Director(s)Collapse
VERA FARMIGA is an award-winning actress who most recently starred in Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, for which she has received nominations for an Oscar® and Golden Globe. She has starred in Source Code, Orphan, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Nothing But the Truth, Down to the Bone, and The Departed among others.