“I Can Only Imagine” comes from the team that made Woodlawn. Naturally, that helped push me into covering the film. While that first film was about the power of Christian athletes coming together to stop racism, this movie goes into a different direction. It tries to be the Christian Rock biopic that America deserves. You get an actress I never seen playing Amy Grant, while the broad strokes of the titular song’s rise to fame gets covered. But, let’s slow down here.

The drama driving the film is about the song’s writer dealing with his abusive father. Naturally, this leads to a stand-off where only the power of Christian forgiveness can soothe cancer pains and end the cycle of abuse. Dennis Quaid stars as a dialed-down take on Dewey Cox’s father in Walk Hard. When Quaid kicks the bucket, the song is crafted. But, it’s not forceful Christian propaganda. It’s a song about a simple man understanding the nature of death.

While you’re going to hear a ton of baristas and Liberal Arts graduates take pot shots at a Christian indie film, they’re going to miss the point. Divorce the faith-based marketing from the film and look at the story you’re presented. It’s a tale about an abused kid trying to understand the cycle of violence that bore him. Can an abused kid deal with an absentee mother and father who blamed him for everything? When that father figure dies, how does an 18 year old frame his life without any history of parental guidance?

The film tackles heavy issues in a way that normally gets turned into soap opera fare in bigger movies. What’s revolutionary about what is presented in the film is that I Can Only Imagine dares you to believe in forgiving people. Forgiveness is virtually an alien concept in America and it’s slowly dying in the Western world. When you go out and see the film, it’s a conversation to have with your friends and family. What does forgiveness mean?

The only thing that I didn’t like about the film was the focus on the outside response to the movie. It felt cliche and overwrought. I get why it was included, but it started treading into parody. If you can get past that, you’ll really enjoy this movie. Yeah, I was surprised too.


  • 1 hr and 50 mins
  • PG
  • Lionsgate


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