High praise for Vera Farmiga, a stunner of an actress, who makes her directing debut with the same bold instincts for sharp humor and harsh truths that mark her performances. Higher Ground is based on a memoir by Carolyn S. Briggs about her life in an evangelical Christian community. Farmiga’s Corinne Walker, played at a younger age by the director’s look-alike sister, Taissa Farmiga, finds God when she and her rocker husband rejoice after their baby daughter escapes death. Corinne is eager to believe. She is also naturally curious about everything, including sex, which quickly puts her at odds with the church, if not her rebel BFF, Annika (the wonderful Dagmara Dominczyk).
Without buying into blind faith, or condescending to it, either, Farmiga crafts an honest portrait of spirituality in flux that most filmmakers shy away from. Farmiga expertly guides a large and gifted ensemble cast and proves as fearless a director as she is an actress. She lights up Higher Ground and makes it funny, touching and vital.