I don’t agree with most of the attacks on Hollywood by Christian fundamentalists, but there’s one criticism — and it’s a major one — that they’re absolutely right about: When it comes to portraying people of faith, Hollywood is worse than disrespectful — it’s shamefully disinterested. When a comedy like Saved, much as I’m a fan of it, passes for a vital vision of American Christian experience, you know that there’s something missing in our movie culture. (Robert Duvall’s The Apostle is a great film, but it’s about as far from the lives of everyday Christians as you can get.)

Stepping up to the plate of righteousness — at liberal secular Sundance, no less — is the vibrant actress Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Down to the Bone), who has now become a filmmaker. She directed and stars in Higher Ground, a rich, sprawling, uplifting, disquieting, at once demystifying and mysterious drama about the life and love and heartbreak and faith of one woman in America who’s an evangelical Christian. I almost wrote “who happens to be an evangelical Christian,” but that would be misleading — and false. Higher Ground insists on the deep normality of true believers, but it also portrays their belief as a choice that floods the most mundane moments of daily existence. The upbeat homiletic fervor of church spreads over to domestic chores, to picnics and parties, to innocent flirtation and not-so-innocent flirtation.

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