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I Can Only Imagine

I went into this film with doubts it’d be any good. Even the Christians I know who have seen it said it wasn’t, that it was a terrible movie, didn’t have a Christian message, and was just a cheap money grab. So I only watched it because I didn’t have anything else to do.

But to my surprise, it actually was a good movie. It tells the story of Bart Millard, the lead singer of MercyMe and the writer of the song the film is named after. Growing up, Bart’s father, Arthur (played by Dennis Quaid), was extremely violent and abusive. Bart grew up resenting his father, to the point where he left home the first chance he got and started his band, MercyMe.

But the band wasn’t doing too well.

Everyone was telling him that they were talented, they just didn’t have it. This angered Bart and he even went off a group of music execs who told them this. One of the execs even told him “not yet”, but he didn’t want to here that. He wanted “right now”.

Finally, Bart decided to go home because he felt drawn there. Turns out, his father had found God while he was away. Even though he was much nicer now and trying to make up for his past mistakes, Bart still resented him and yelled at him. It wasn’t until he learned that his father was dying from cancer that he decided to listen to him. Together, the two of them started going to church, and by the time Arthur passed away, Bart had forgiven him.

Years later, Bart was on the band’s bus when the lyrics to I Can Only Imagine came to him and he wrote it in about ten minutes. The rest is history.

I pretty much simplified this film, because I want you to see it for yourself. While I guess I can see why those people I mentioned said it “wasn’t a Christian movie” (the main character resents his father for most of his life and has a short tempter), it’s based on a true story. I find it amazing that Bart Millard was honest enough to include that. He could have changed history to make himself seem like this perfect person, but he included his flaws for the world to see.

Pretty much my only real complaint with this film comes from the scene where he actually writes the song. It’s the basis of the film itself, and it just shows him writing the title, then cuts to the song fully written out.

The film also left out a bunch of stuff that would have made it make more sense. Like, it shows the words, “I can only imagine” all over all of his notebooks. It doesn’t say that he did that himself absentmindedly over the course of a few years. Which brings me to another complaint (okay, so I lied about that being my only complaint). It doesn’t always give you a sense of how much time went by. It makes it look like his father’s funeral happens and he writes the song the next day. But this page shows that it was actually several years later.

It also explains that the scene with Amy Grant on stage was changed for the movie. While the movie’s version was more dramatic, the whole thing was planned before the concert, so there was no surprise switch.

It was still a great movie, though. Even a good Christian movie. As Bart says in the movie, “I watched my father turn from a monster to a man of God. If God can do that, He can do anything” (paraphrased).

I give this film an 8 our of 10. I rented it on YouTube, but here’s where you can buy the DVD or Blu-Ray.

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