It's not very likely that the film industry would clamor over a film about a born-again Christian woman, but that's just what they're doing about Vera Farmiga's new movie, “Higher Ground.”
While many may recognize the 38-year-old Farmiga's face, they might not be as acquainted with her name. After all, there's not much room in the limelight for actors who work alongside stars like Matt Damon and George Clooney, as she has done in “The Departed” and “Up In The Air.”
Though Farmiga plays the lead role in “Higher Ground,” it is also the first film that she has directed, and the job sort of fell into her lap.
“I was attached to the project as an actress with honestly no intention of directing,” she said.
The story is based on a Carolyn S. Briggs memoir called “This Dark World,” and after participating in the script's development and spending time working with Briggs, Farmiga decided that she could take on directing.
“Carolyn was the real life model for [the main character] Corinne,” she said. “She believed I understood the spirit of the film, the complexities of the character's struggles and search. With her validation and plea, I knew I should direct.”
The movie begins with a young girl, Corinne, who watches her wholesome family break apart after her parents lose a baby at birth. Later on, at a vacation Bible school, Corinne raises her hand for the preacher and declares that she has been saved.
As the years wear on, however, she remains unchanged, eventually marrying the front man of a rock band, Ethan, when she is noticeably pregnant with his child. Corinne and Ethan, along with their baby daughter, would later get into a dramatic bus accident that would serve as their spiritual wake up call.
The couple then becomes part of a congregation, but Corinne finds herself struggling with the role that she is expected to play as a woman in the church. When her close friend is later struck by a medical tragedy that leaves her in a wheelchair, Corinne goes from struggling to having serious doubts about the faith.
The movie raises questions about strict-Christian practices and orthodoxy when Corinne goes through a falling out with both her husband and the church, though Farmiga claims that attacking Christianity wasn't her goal.
“I did not want to make a film about the rights and wrongs of religion,” she writes in a statement. “I wanted to be reverent and respectful, and I did not want to infect the story with bias. 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 higher ground.”
The film has been named an official selection of the 2011 Sundance, Tribeca, and Los Angeles film festivals. The film isn't for everyone, however, and is rated “R” for language and sexual content.
.“We all, on some level or another, experience moments full of doubt and questioning, feeling
disappointed or disillusioned, in need of clarity,” she writes. “Why not throw all these notions up on the screen and see what sticks?
“Higher Ground” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.