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Love, Forgiveness and Good Ol’ Christian Music in “I Can Only Imagine”

By Caitlin Andreasen; For the Clock
On April 15, 2018

“I Can Only Imagine,” released in March, has come to the Flying Monkey in Plymouth. The film shares the name of the famous song by the Christian band MercyMe, and follows the life of songwriter and vocalist Bart Millard. MercyMe was formed in 1994 in Greenville, TX, and the song “I Can Only Imagine” was first released in 1999.

Bart, played by J. Michael Finley, tells the story behind the creation of “Imagine.” The song “took a lifetime” to write. He details his childhood marked by abuse and abandonment, his passion for music and the security that he found in the church.

After graduating high school, Bart leaves his girlfriend (Madeline Carrol) behind and joins the band that becomes MercyMe to travel the country. The band performs in Nashville hoping to gain the support of some larger labels, but are told that they are just not good enough yet. Bart returns home to Greenville Texas.

Bart re-establishes his relationship with his abusive father (Dennis Quaid), who helps him connect with the church. Through this, Bart finds the inspiration to write “I Can Only Imagine” with the emotion and authenticity that the band’s music was lacking.

The film is centralized around a theme of forgiveness. Despite the toxic tension between Bart and his father, he works to develop a healthier relationship between them. Perhaps a “monster” can truly make a positive change if given the support and opportunity. The actors each delivered a fantastic performance.

The beginning notes of “Imagine” play here and there throughout the film, building to the first reveal and performance. While the song itself seemed to have made a great impact on people, I found it to be a little disappointing after all the hype. This was mainly because I was not familiar with the title song before seeing the film. For me, the focus on the relationships and growth of the artist was more important than the outcome.

The movie was well-balanced, contrasting heavy emotional scenes of verbal and physical abuse with scenes of light humor for levity. Though there are religious references and undertones, the positive messages of hope and forgiveness are for everyone to enjoy, regardless of affiliation.

If you are in the mood for an inspiring movie filled with music and uplifting Christian messages, go see “I Can Only Imagine.”



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