Higher Ground is about a woman who wants something far more than she can actually handle it. Corinne (Vera Farmiga) is so sure in her devoutness to God that there is never any question or doubts. She knows there are mysterious ways she will never understand and sometimes even forgets her place when she almost preaches at the learned men of the church instead of sitting in the background like women should at her church services. Then why does she still feel empty? She is inviting God in, leaves the porch light on, but sometimes he just does not show up.
Corinne listens to her best friend pray for her in tongues and so wants that same energy to flow through her and speak those strange and unfamiliar words. She stares into the bathroom mirror almost begging the unseen to let the spirit flow through her and make her feel ecstatic. Alas, no holy spirit shows up. In fact, those mysterious ways show up again in forms which make Corinne start to wonder just what is pulling the strings in the world if all of her prayer goes nowhere and horrible things continue to happen and that empty feeling inside of her grows larger.
The screenplay is based on Carolyn S. Briggs’s memoir “This Dark World” and must come to life more on the printed page than on screen. Higher Ground is a faith story of one girl’s and then woman’s history of faith and then disenchantment. Sometimes it is delightful especially early scenes between young Corinne (Taissa Farmiga) and her boyfriend (Boyd Holbrook) and even more so with her best friend Annika (Dagmara Dominczyk). These supporting characters are far more intriguing on screen than Corinne is. The majority of the film follows Corinne through her daily grind and interactions which either affirm or hinder her faith. This memoir may make for interesting conversation in the author’s living room, but on screen, it just wanders around.
Just because one is able to write a memoir does not mean it will be compelling to an outside observer. The scenes in Higher Ground may work individually at moments, but taken together, they do not quite fit alongside one another. At the end, they really are just scenes juxtaposed together to tell a life story wrapped around faith; that is about as interesting to watch as it is to read about.