The same intelligence, wit and mature spirit that actress Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air") brings to her performances is richly apparent in her directorial debut as well, the inquisitive spiritual drama "Higher Ground."
Based on Carolyn Briggs' memoir "This Dark World," and adapted by Farmiga with Briggs and Tim Metcalfe, the film depicts the journey of Midwesterner Corinne from godly wonderment to roiling dissatisfaction. As a teenager, literary-minded, curious Corinne (played in these scenes by Farmiga's youngest sister, Taissa) bristles at the disintegrating union of her mother (Donna Murphy) and father (John Hawkes).
When her own blissful romance with a long-haired rock guitarist named Ethan (Boyd Holbrook) quickly settles into a workaday marriage, young parenthood and near-tragedy, the pair double down on their bond by turning to the Bible as a way to make sense of their changing lives.
Farmiga and Joshua Leonard pick up the roles of Corinne and Ethan as adults, when they've settled into a tightly knit, rural evangelical Christian community marked by hippie-ish conventions (folk-tinged song circles, sexual happiness chatter) and ultra-conservative attitudes about gender roles. So while Ethan can find fulfillment as a musician for Jesus, Corinne's attempt at self-expression in church is reprimanded as "preaching to the men."