I Can Only Imagine tugs at the heart

Film review: Non-Christian believers will still be able to relate

Amanda Hinshaw
Staff Writer

Moviegoers are sure to get teary-eyed and feel a sense of hope at the end of “I Can Only Imagine.”

Bart Millard, the lead singer of MercyMe, penned the song for his deceased father.  It is a song that has been heard by millions of people around the country, but no one ever knew the story behind the inspiration.

“I Can Only Imagine” is a biopic of Millard’s life and it is a tale that definitely had its dark side.  Millard’s father, Arthur Millard, was physically and verbally abusive towards his son and it continued until he was a freshman in high school.

WARNING:  There may be spoilers in this review, so for those who haven’t seen the film, I will keep it to a minimum.  If you do see the film, be sure to bring a box of tissues.

Millard was a creative child from the beginning.  He was always listening to music and going to Christian camp.

His mother leaves his father, due to his abusive nature, but she doesn’t take Millard with her.  This leads to a physical confrontation between Millard and his father.

There are obvious signs in the early part of the film that Millard would do anything to please his father, especially going as far as playing high school football. This dream is short-lived after sustaining injuries to both of his ankles.

Millard has to enroll in an extracurricular activity in order to graduate from high school and the only thing that was available was the glee club.  He would work as the sound technician and while he was singing, the teacher heard how good his voice was, and he was cast as the lead role in the school play “Oklahoma!”

Millard never told his father that he was singing in the play, for fear that he would be ridiculed.  His father tries to influence his son into believing that he’s wasting his time “with some stupid dream”.

Millard doesn’t realize that his father is diagnosed with a terminal illness and his father refuses to reveal this to his son and his son’s girlfriend, Shannon.  Despite attempts to stop Millard from pursing his passion for singing, he leaves after high school graduation and heads for the city.

Millard eventually finds a group and they name themselves “MercyMe”, in part because of Millard’s singing and the awestruck that it causes.  They are eventually scouted by a Christian music producer, Scott Brickell, but he doesn’t think the band is ready.  Brickell believes that Millard needs to let his pain become his inspiration, and after that, the audience members will find something they can believe in.

Millard and his father make amends before he passes away, and after his father’s passing, he writes the song that will inspire millions.  He gets the chance to sing it at an Amy Grant concert.  Grant was his biggest influence when he was growing up and he held onto her songs, as if they were an anchor for him.

“I Can Only Imagine” is a faith-based film, but I respectfully disagree with critics that say being a hardcore Christian helps in liking the film.  I think that everyone can find solace in the fact that anyone can change, and sometimes, it takes something much bigger than themselves to help with that change.

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