Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine

I’ve always been fascinated with the back story behind creative endeavors—that initial spark, struggles on the journey, and the ultimate success. All three exist, along with stellar acting performances, in this riveting film about the inspiring story behind the most popular Christian music song in history.

The storyline follows the trajectory of MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard from his pre-teen years (played by Brody Rose) through high school and beyond (brilliantly played by Broadway performer J. Michael Finlay).

Growing up in Greenville, Texas, Bart had a tight bond with his gentle mother but steered clear of his angry, abusive father (expertly played by Dennis Quaid). Upon returning home from a week at church camp, Bart discovers that his mother has abandoned him, leaving him alone to suffer the emotional and physical abuse.

Bart attempts to connect with his father—a former high school athlete—through football. Unfortunately, a leg injury derails Bart’s plans. His girlfriend Shannon (Madelaine Carroll) persuades him to join the Glee Club. Everyone—including Bart—is surprised by his singing talent.

Determined to be a success in the music industry, Bart leaves town upon graduation, abandoning his father and girlfriend. He joins a band that needs a singer and tours with them throughout Oklahoma and nearby states. They attract the attention of music producer Brickell (well-played by Trace Adkins). While Brickell isn’t impressed by their cover songs, he does show interest in Bart’s more heartfelt music.

The band is popular and well-received by audiences, but music executives are not ready to take them to the next level. The criticism stings: “You’re not good enough…Go home.”

Distraught, Bart wants to quit, but Brickwell persuades him to address the demons that are holding him back. His advice is spot-on: “Let that pain become your inspiration.”

Planning to confront his father, Bart returns to Greenville. But his anger is short-lived. The paternal monster has evolved into the father that Bart always hoped he would have. Inspired by this spiritual transformation, Bart pens the lyrics to “I Can Only Imagine.”

What follows are tear-jerking moments and the delivery of the song. During the credits, the real-life Bart Millard delivers his rendition of the chart-topping song that has brought hope into the lives of millions.

Definitely a movie for the Easter season. Don’t miss it!


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