After MercyMe’s eponymous hit single, I Can Only Imagine stars J. Michael Finley as Bart Millard, the lead singer of the contemporary Christian band founded in Greenville, Texas.
The movie is currently scored 55% on Rotten Tomatoes’ tomatometer but remains at a 96% of audiences liking it. This disconnect is indicative of what this movie is able to accomplish with what it has.
It’s not a great movie, but it isn’t bad either. It’s really easy to be a movie snob, in the same way someone can be a music snob; virtue-signaling how sophisticated one is by the types of entertainment one may or may not prefer.
But this movie does what better films are unable to do, and what lesser films fail at doing; namely, moving the audience emotionally.
The film begins in Greenville, Texas in 1985 at Bart Millard’s rural home, and follows his life experiences through to where he was able to write such a powerful song as I Can Only Imagine. It is difficult to expertly fill a movie with the entirety of a person’s life and this effort is no exception.
It starts and stops, and falters technically here and there. Some people and events are awkwardly shoehorned in and it diminishes the effect of the story, but the second half picks up steam and doesn’t stop.
The internal struggle Bart constantly engages with, resulting from the external chaos of his home life as a child, is made real. The role of his abusive father is performed convincingly by Dennis Quaid (Wyatt Earp, Innerspace). He manages to discourage Bart’s dreams of professional musicianship but Bart is able to reroute the pain of their relationship into song.
Most notable in this movie is that you don’t actually hear the song until the end of the movie. It would seem easy to just promote the music in one big commercial for the band and especially the song but the #1 Christian song released in 2001 is given its due.
The time the movie gives to the people behind the song, and the emotions, and experiences that had to happen in order for the song to be written makes the song that much more powerful when it is finally performed on the screen.
Other Christian artists are included in the film, like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith to give a more backstage industry presence. But ultimately it’s the film’s heart and experience that move the audience.
If the song makes you feel anything, the movie will too.
Article Written By Nick Murillo
eParisExtra.com Movie Reviewer