I’ve been impatiently waiting for a new Christian movie that would exceed my expectations. I Can Only Imagine is that movie! Everything about it, from beginning to end, was a masterpiece. Albeit, you will probably cry in this film. As I was leaving the theater, I heard a young lady say, “This is the only movie I’ve cried in from beginning to end.” However, don’t let that stop you. I absolutely hate crying in movies, but I would watch this film again in a heartbeat. That’s how good it is.
I Can Only Imagine is based on the true story of Bart Millard, one-fifth of the contemporary Christian band MercyMe. We see how Millard’s experiences and struggles growing up led to him writing the award-winning song, “I Can Only Imagine”. The film stars J. Michael Finley as Bart Millard, Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow, Vantage Point), Trace Adkins (Deepwater Horizon, The Lincoln Lawyer), Madeline Carroll (The Spy Next Door, Resident Evil: Extinction), Nicole DuPort (The Last Tycoon, Grey’s Anatomy), and Brody Rose (Gifted, Christmas on the Bayou). It also features the legendary Cloris Leachman (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Young Frankenstein).
I Can Only Imagine is the product of, what I call, intelligent writing. Too often, movies use tactics such as flashbacks and special effects to cover up bad script writing. In the case of this film, they started with a wonderful script and used those elements to simply enhance what they already had. One clear example of this is their use of music. Due to the fact that the film centers on a popular singer, it was obvious that music would play a central role. A lesser film, would have put in several musical numbers that would allow for less dialogue and fewer plot points. However, the people involved in this film used great restraint and only used small clips of songs until the end; when it would be the most effective.
Of course, the most effective thing the movie did was give us an extremely moving and heartfelt story. The song “I Can Only Imagine” is the best-selling Christian single of all time and is the only Christian song to be certified 2X platinum by the RIAA. As impressive as that is, the story behind the lyrics is even more so. It is one filled with the pain of abuse, the power of forgiveness, and the strength of God’s love. I am so grateful that Bart Millard was open enough to share his story with us.
Portraying real people, the actors in the film had an incredibly important role to play. Every single one of them did an outstanding job. Their performances were so believable that I forgot I was watching actors. This wasn’t an easy task when you consider that some of them were playing people I am extremely familiar with, such as Amy Grant. In an even more shocking turn of events, this film is the first for lead actor, J. Michael Finley. He may be spending most of his time in theatre right now, but after this performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him on the big-screen in the near future.
I could continue with praise for this film, but I would have to start giving you spoilers and I don’t want to do that. So take my advice: get a box of tissues, a bottle of water, a pair of sunglasses to hide the tears, and go see this movie. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go binge all of MercyMe’s albums.
WHAT AGE GROUP IS IT FOR?
I would put this film in the PG-13 category. This is because the topic of abuse does come up and some violence is shown. They don’t show much, but I wouldn’t consider it a great subject matter for a younger audience.
LOOKING TO SHOW IT AT CHURCH?
This film would be great to show adults at church. For a sermon or Bible study, the main themes are forgiveness and redemption. On a smaller scale, this movie also makes me think of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” You could use clips from it, but this movie is probably even more effective in its entirety. Therefore, a special movie night would be the perfect venue.