I watched the 2011 movie Higher Ground a few nights ago. Higher Ground is about a woman named Corinne, who converts to fundamentalist Christianity and later leaves that belief system. Vera Farmiga starred in and directed the film.
Here are some things that stood out to me in the movie:
1. I liked Corinne’s alcoholic father. He was so easygoing, even around people who had strong religious beliefs and who probably didn’t think he was saved. I wish I could be that easygoing around opinionated and patronizing people (without drinking, of course).
2. What sets Corinne on her path to doubt is when her best friend Annika has a brain tumor, and the operation leaves Annika mute and bound to a wheelchair. This was an especially sad part of the movie, for Annika prior to the operation was so vibrant, eccentric, funny, and ironic, plus she prayed in tongues. I had to admire Annika’s husband for sticking with her after the operation, both out of his faith in God and his love for his wife. But I could understand why Corinne was doubting God.
3. Corinne sees a Christian counselor, who expresses concern about her doubts and her backsliding. The counselor tells Corinne a story about how God told him to publicly confront an adulterous city councilor, who soon thereafter died in an accident. The Christian counselor did not come across to me as a mean person, but I did not care for his use of fear tactics to keep Corinne on the straight and narrow. I liked Corinne’s skeptical facial expression when he was telling the story!
4. Corinne was at her church’s small group. One guy testifies that he has been falling into walking after the flesh, for he really lost it recently, and he needs God’s help and people’s prayers to walk in the Spirit. The pastor replies that God will honor a contrite heart. Corinne looks bored throughout the small group meeting, and her husband later tells her that she shouldn’t go if she hates going so much. I could identify with that one guy’s vulnerability and desire to feel whole, but I could also identify with Corinne not wanting to be in the small group. When everyone else is on one page, and you’re on another, what should you do?
5. Corinne liked to read poetry. She almost had a romance with a mailman who liked poetry, but it turned out that he was with another woman. The reason that her love for poetry stands out to me is that poetry is about the highs and lows of life. So is religion, but a lot of what Corinne’s fundamentalist friends were saying came across to me as predictable platitudes, even though those platitudes did help Corinne’s friends to get through life with strength and a sense of meaning. I can sympathize with Corinne looking to poetry to learn from fellow pilgrims in the journey of life.
6. In the final scene of the movie, Corinne stands in front of the church and says that she admires the people’s faith, even if she is not sure if she shares it. What I particularly admired and respected was that the pastor allowed her to talk (since this was a somewhat patriarchal church), and he nodded with understanding after she was done speaking. I agree with movie critic Roger Ebert that the movie largely depicts the fundamentalists as good people (see Ebert’s review here).
Good movie. It generated some discussion! See here to read an article about the book on which the movie was based: Carolyn Briggs’ The Dark World.