The inspiring and unknown true story behind MercyMe’s beloved, chart-topping song that brings ultimate hope to so many is a gripping reminder of the power of true forgiveness.
The heart behind the hit song I Can Only Imagine takes viewers behind the curtain, into the personal life of singer/songwriter Bart Millard (a role magnificently performed by J. Michael Finley). Deeply moving, and not to be missed, I Can Only Imagine is a story of tragedy and triumph; a living epistle of grace and healing.
Raised in a turbulent home with an alcoholic father (Dennis Quaid), young, idealistic Bart uses music as an escape. His mother and grandmother are his allies; they see his dreams and encourage him to pursue them. But when Bart is abandoned, the deafening discouragement of the father he must contend with leaves him jaded and driven to please. After a football injury lands Bart in his high school’s Glee club, a surprising gift is discovered. Escaping home and pursuing a life of music and adventure on the road, Bart believes his troubles are over. However, even miles away Bart is haunted by hurt and rejection from his past. A visit home finally forces him to face his father and all the painful memories they share.
This is perhaps the most well done “true story” I’ve ever seen. I must admit, I was never a huge fan of the song that started it all. I didn’t understand or appreciate it, until seeing this film. The song deals with loss in a unique way, by looking heavenward to the joy of the departed. The film shows the events that became the inspiration for that song, along with its writing, recording, release, and impact. Watching this film fresh off the loss of my grandfather, I clearly understand now. I Can Only Imagine the film, like the song, is about all the moments in life, big or small, leading into the greatest moment of all: meeting the Redeemer face to face. It’s about people, who we are, the lives we lead and the legacy we leave behind. It clearly displays the folly of one’s choices, the impact of a father’s rage, the fickle nature of faith that refuses to forgive. It’s a story of radical transformation and radiant joy.
I Can Only Imagine transcends beyond the grit and darkness of its subject’s circumstances and captures the whole picture—the brokenness, yes, and plenty of it—but the healing, the mourning, sorrow and pain; also the joy. Bart’s story captured through film is Ephesians 3:20 in action, a beacon of hope for all those struggling with forgiveness, grief, and purpose. I Can Only Imagine grabs you, zeros in on your weariness and spurs you on. This is not a movie you simply watch. It is one that you feel.
We are pleased to award I Can Only Imagine the Dove Seal of Approval for Ages 12+.