Higher Ground is based upon the memoir of screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs and represents Farmiga’s directorial debut. It is a bold, well-crafted film that, even in its weaker moments, gives notice of what is to come from Farmiga from behind the camera. Higher Ground displays a thoughtfulness that is uncommon in religiously-oriented tales of this sort. Rather than jumping head-first into stereotypes and harsh judgments, Farmiga shows her characters to be simply human; these are good people with good hearts even if they are misguided. The lack of condescension (for the most part) within the film was refreshing and resulted in a deeper experience than I might have expected. This isn’t a story about corporate religion so much as it is about one woman’s personal struggles with faith and that difference is what makes Higher Ground worth watching.
On screen, Farmiga is charming and charismatic as ever. For me, there are very few actresses who command attention the way Farmiga does. She’s a tremendous talent, to be sure, but there is also an inherent presence about her that makes her a wholly intriguing, captivating performer no matter what role she takes on. Her portrayal here is understated and quiet but nonetheless powerful, an excellent illustration of what a great actress can do when given room to work.