There are not too many films that leave such an impact based on a prominent song. Wait until you see “I Can Only Imagine,” which is set to appear in theaters March 16. The movie is being directed by the Erwin Brothers, creators of “October Baby,” “Moms’ Night Out,” and “Woodlawn.”
“I Can Only Imagine” isn’t just world renowned track, but one that invites listeners to fully experience the presence of God. It’s also the only Christian single to reach over two million digital downloads. The film is based on a true story of MercyMe member Bart Millard, who grew up in a household where his father was abusive and his mother left him. Bart’s dad, Arthur, is filled with guilt, regret and anger that he displays often on his family.
Bart Millard struggles with his past so much that at one point it hinders his music career. A broken home plus an often negative abusive dad is a resume for disaster. Nevertheless, Bart finds comfort in the only thing that becomes his place of peace — music. Even before Bart believed that music was his way of escape, he still wanted his father to be proud of him. So Bart chose to take an interest in the only thing his father cared about – football. His football career ended before it truly even started once Bart suffered a leg injury.
When Bart was told he would never play football again, his father sees that he won’t amount to anything other than to find a job. Yet, Bart continues to seek music and eventually meets a teacher who challenges him to use his God-given gift.
When Bart decides that pursuing a music career is his plan after high school, his girlfriend Amy thinks Bart should rethink his plans. He decides to pursue a gift God has given him, hoping his girlfriend would follow.
While Bart and his fellow band members are traveling to perform, they met Scott Brickell, who eventually becomes their manager. At one point in the film, Brickell tells Bart, “You found your soul not your song.”
After a performance in Nashville where top music executives attended, they all tell Bart he’s got talent but isn’t quite there yet. This creates disappointment and brings Bart face to face with his father’s constant words of “you’re just not good enough” haunting him. He also struggles with the issue of unforgiveness in his heart.
The movie shows that in order to move forward, we must be willing to deal with our past. Bart comes to the discovery that if he wants his music career to take flight, he has to return to the one place he dreaded the most — home. His manager also encourages Bart to use his pain to write about his past.
As viewers watch the film, you see Bart’s dad find God and attempt to re-establish a relationship with his son. Yet, Bart does not believe his father has given his life to Christ. In order to pursue his dream, Bart must accept his dad’s efforts to be forgiven, but not until Bart discovers the man who he considered a monster is actually dying from cancer. Interesting how death has a way of causing people to look at those we despised differently.
An Act of Redemption
“I Can Only Imagine” provides a true feel of what redemption can look like. Bart and his father Arthur didn’t have the best relationship growing up. Now, at this crucial time in Bart’s career and his dad’s life, they both need each other. In a short period of time, Bart watches his dad transform from a monster to the man he wanted to become. Arthur also encourages Bart to chase his dream until he can catch it and never look back. Arthur told his son when he was young not to follow his dreams because his never came true. It’s at this point in the film that Bart’s dad finally believes in his son.
“I Can Only Imagine” is sure to resonate with those who were raised in a broken home. It also will inspire people with dreams to still pursue them despite what occurred in your past. Don’t just go see the film but find out the story behind the only song that reached over two million digital downloads.
Tyrone Hall is a freelance writer who can be reached at TyroneHall87@gmail.com.