I Can Only Imagine is the story of writing the Christian hit song … And what it took for the young man to be able to write his pain, and reconciliation, into it.
I Can Only Imagine (2018) starring J. Michael Finley, Dennis Quaid
Let me start by stating the obvious: I Can Only Imagine is a very well done, powerful, heart touching film. It’s the story of a young man, growing up in a very dysfunctional home. His mother abandons him, after sending him to a Christian summer camp — trying to give him one happy memory. While he’s there, she’s leaving. Leaving him with his abusive, alcoholic father. Doesn’t sound like a happy, feel-good movie, does it?
And yet … God is in control. This young man grows up, wanting to please his father. His broken father, who thinks dreams are for losers. He tries to emulate his father by becoming a high school football star. Only to have both legs broken in the process. He’ll never play again.
But there’s a teacher at his school, that’s about to ignite his passion for music.
In fact, when I think of this movie, one scene comes to mine. The young man, nearly an adult, is at home eating breakfast one Sunday morning. He invites his father to come hear him sing at church that morning. The father, feeling he’s not being respected, breaks a plate over the back of his son’s head. Is it any surprise that the young man leaves? Is bitter towards his father? What the audience knows, that he doesn’t, is that the father’s now suffering from pancreatic cancer.
You didn’t write that song in 10 minutes
Despite all that, there’s actually reconciliation coming for that young man. By the end of the movie, his father’s literally come to Jesus Christ before his death. And, he wants to reconcile with his son before he dies. And the son, understandably, doesn’t believe or trust him. But God moves in a mysterious way …
Along the way, there’s a lot of other things going on. He loses the only girl he ever loves. He’s struggling to become a success in the Christian music industry. But what’s at the heart of the story, is taking his pain, and writing about it, making a song that truly touches people.
Brickell: Let me ask you something Bart, what are you running from?
Bart: My dad. He, uh, he…
Brickell: …he beat you, didn’t he? Ya ain’t got no poker face kid.
Bart: I carry that. I have to live with that, you know. I always will.
Brickell: Then write about it. Stop running from it. Let that pain become your inspiration.
As he says in the movie, it took roughly 10 minutes to write the lyrics, and another 10 to write the song. But a lifetime to get to that point.
From the manufacturer
I Can Only Imagine
A gripping reminder of the power of forgiveness, ‘I Can Only Imagine‘ beautifully illustrates that no one is ever too far from God’s love—or from an eternal home in Heaven.
It s the song that brings ultimate hope to so many … often in the midst of life s most challenging moments. Amazingly, the song was written in mere minutes by MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard. In reality, those lyrics took a lifetime to craft. Although he found faith at a young age, life wasn t easy for Bart. He leaned into an active imagination and his love of music as escapes from a troubled home life. As he grew older, Bart turned to football in hopes of somehow connecting with his abusive father. But a career-ending injury-combined with the vision of a teacher who saw unlimited potential-set Bart on a musical pathway.
Chasing a dream while running from broken relationships with his father and Shannon, his childhood sweetheart, Bart hits the road in an old, decrepit tour bus with his new band MercyMe-named for his grandmother s favourite expression. With the guidance of a grizzled music-industry insider, the band begins a journey none of them could ever have imagined. Directed by the Erwin Brothers (October Baby, Moms’ Night Out, and Woodlawn), I CAN ONLY IMAGINE stars J. Michael Finley, Madeline Carroll, Trace Adkins, Priscilla Shirer, with Cloris Leachman and Dennis Quaid. A gripping reminder of the power of forgiveness, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE beautifully illustrates that no one is ever too far from God s love-or from an eternal home in Heaven.
Cast of characters
- J. Michael Finley … Bart
- Madeline Carroll (Resident Evil: Extinction) … Shannon
- Dennis Quaid (Interspace) … Arthur
- Trace Adkins (An American Carol) … Brickell
- Cloris Leachman (Herbie Goes Bananas; The Croods) … Memaw
- Jason Burkey … Mike
- Mark Furze … Nathan
- Randy McDowell … Jim
- Cole Marcus … Robbie
- Alexander Dominguez … Kent
- Brody Rose … Young Bart
- Taegen Burns … Young Shannon
- J.R. Cacia … Rusty
- Tanya Clarke … Adele
- Nicole DuPort … Amy Grant
- Jake B. Miller … Michael W. Smith
- Priscilla C. Shirer … Mrs. Fincher
- Gianna Simone … Dr. Avondale
- Josh Walsh … Ross
- Mark Robert Ellis … Coach (as Mark Ellis)
- Samuel Sadovnik … Young Kent
- Kerry McCormick … Nurse (as Kerry B. McCormick)
- Gary Wallace … Fitz
- David Norona … Bill Layton
- Maria Hurdle … Sherry
- Kevin Downes … Singleton
- Rhoda Griffis … Jen-Amy’s Manager
- Anna Groeschel … Base Camp Counselor
- Delilah … Delilah