As a song, MercyMe’s ‘I Can Only Imagine’ is really something quite special; touching, profound and one that has the ability to connect. Not surprisingly, the tune is the best selling Christian music single of all time, the lyrics speaking of the promise of the glory that will come to pass when the listener comes face-to-face with their heavenly father.
In short, it’s a beauty.
‘I Can Only Imagine’ the film? Maybe not AS impactful, but still….a similar case of the feels.
And that’s especially great news for the genre, for faith-based entertainment is often hit-and-miss. Thanks to films like ‘Woodlawn’ and ‘Paul, Apostle of Christ’ – projects that enjoyed the presence of some big name talent and, perhaps more importantly, some big budgets behind them – evangelical films are starting to become real players at the box office. When they’re too heavy-handed or dismissive of production values, they can unfortunately get dismissed easily……but not here. ‘I Can Only Imagine’ is not only a good Christian film – it’s a good FILM, period.
The story is essentially a bio of MercyMe singer Bart Millard (played by stage performer J. Michael Finley), who famously wrote ‘I Can Only Imagine’ in a few minutes. That said, it took years to lead up to the song’s creation, and the movie rewinds the tape back a few decades to see how his journey began.
Dennis Quaid plays Arthur, Bart’s angry, violent dad. He is, in Bart’s own words, “a monster”, enough so that the wannabe musician eventually flees home to chase his dream. But deep down he is aware that, until he can reach the top, he has to find a way to heal the hurts of the past.
‘I Can Only Imagine’ works exceptionally well because a huge effort is invested by brothers Jon and Andy Erwin on character development. This isn’t a movie that will pound you like a mallet with its gospel message; it’s really a tale about faith and forgiveness – i.e., uplifting without a lot of heavy agenda.