Movie Review: 'I Can Only Imagine' (2018)

Updated on August 20, 2018
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Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.

I Can Only Imagine Blu-Ray/DVD cover.
I Can Only Imagine Blu-Ray/DVD cover. | Source

Quick Info:

Director: Erwin Brothers
Studio: Lions Gate
Released: June 12, 2018
Runtime: 110 minutes
Availability: On DVD and blu-ray

Story Summary:

I Can Only Imagine is the biographical portrayal of the life of MercyMe’s Bart Millard and how Jesus changed the heart of his abusive father and the origins of the song “I Can Only Imagine,” the first single from the triple platinum-selling album “Almost There.”

This is a Different Kind of Christian Movie:

I’m sure if you’ve been paying attention you’ve noticed a slew of faith-based Christian movies that have been coming out over the years. As a Christian myself, I am not really into these movies, mainly because they are more like movies that are “preaching to the choir” and meant to encourage believers while running on the same storytelling formula over and over. Nonbelievers just roll their eyes and find something else to watch at the theaters.

That formula is that the bold Christian stands up to the angry Atheist and the angry Atheist ends up becoming a Christian and there’s a happy ending every single time.

But real life doesn’t work like that, not all the time, and not everyone gets a happy ending. But that’s mainly the fictional stories portrayed in Christian movies.

But I Can Only Imagine is different, this is a real story, these really happened and as much as secular critics can shred a fictional story, it’s very hard to fight a real person’s personal testimony.

The film is not exceptionally preachy and that’s probably why it managed to get a “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes because it’s not too preachy and they can find it inspirational and just call it a good film for being inspirational.

Still, it barely got a fresh rating with mainstream critics. Of course, they’re not going to enjoy a movie about a faith they don’t believe in, but you can expect that from those kinds of people.

Audiences love this film, and that’s because whether you’re Christian or secular you have probably heard “I Can Only Imagine” on the radio because it was so widely requested on the radio when it came out, it’s their most popular single and has over 40 million hits on the official YouTube channel, not counting all the song uploads on YouTube, and you’re curious about the origins of the song.

If you’re a secular person wondering if you should watch this movie, you should watch it, it’s not like this film’s gonna make you get saved or anything, you can just see it as the origin story of a song you really enjoyed listening to.

More people get saved by seeing the Jesus film from the 1980s than a film like this anyway.

Bart Millard 's first performance of "I Can Only Imagine" as portrayed in the movie.
Bart Millard 's first performance of "I Can Only Imagine" as portrayed in the movie. | Source

The Story is Really Interesting:

Bart Millard’s life is an interesting one, he didn’t have a great home life and his faith in Jesus helped him through it. Jesus also turned his life upside down when He changed his father’s heart too, and he says in the interview on the special features that he didn’t want Jesus to change his father because he wanted his father to be the villain of his story.

The whole theme of the movie is forgiveness, and that’s something we all need in the world, whether you’re Christian or not. Christians need to watch this movie, and not just to “support Christian movies” either. Christians are probably the most prone to taking offense to things and holding onto offense so the message of forgiveness is something they need to see.

The film is about Bart learning to forgive his father for all the awful things he did, and he only forgave because of Jesus.

Seeing how God worked in his life and that God worked everything together for good, is what makes this story wonderful, interesting and inspirational.

I Can Only Imagine: Home Entertainment Trailer:

The Acting Is Great:

The entire cast was great and a lot of Christian movies suffer from bad writing and bad acting, but this film doesn’t have that problem. I enjoyed the entire cast and they picked great actors for all the roles. I have no complaints about the actors chosen for this film.

MercyMe "I Can Only Imagine" The Movie Session:

The Soundtrack Was Very Nice:

I really liked the soundtrack of this film and not just the instrumental pieces, but the song choices used for the music they picked.

It was a nice score, and it complimented the film very well.

Scott Brickell, MercyMe's manager being honest with the band before they hit it big.
Scott Brickell, MercyMe's manager being honest with the band before they hit it big. | Source

The Film Feels Low Budget:

People complain that the film feels low budget, and while they whine about that, keep in mind this is an autobiographical film, since when biography need fancy cinematography anyway, I’m sure some of the $7 million went into buying some nice HD cameras and that this film was not, as the critic David Ehrlich of IndieWire wrote, “they all look like they were shot on an iPhone by a Walmart-brand Janusz Kaminski who lit each interior like the white light of heaven was streaming through every window.”

All these secular critics don’t realize that unless your name is Roma Downey and you have a lot of money that Christian films are always going to be low-budget unless there’s a Christian company willing to take a big risk and try to get something crowdfunded, these sorts of films are never going to be amazing works of cinematography, and for this film it doesn’t need to be.

The biggest budget Christian film that was not overtly Christian was The Lord of the Rings, and that’s because J.R.R. Tolkien was a Catholic who converted C.S. Lewis to Christianity, and the Christian themes of The Lord of the Rings aren’t obvious unless you know about Tolkien’s faith in the first place.

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Bart's escape from his abusive home life was Christian music.
Bart's escape from his abusive home life was Christian music. | Source

It’s A Wonderful and Inspirational Film:

I Can Only Imagine (2018) is a moving and wonderful film about redemption and forgiveness, it’s not preachy but it’s the true story of how Jesus changes even the worst people. It’s a very well done film and it may not be the best looking movie ever, but the message is what people need to see, not fancy cinematography or flashy camera work.

It’s the true story of how the power of Jesus changes lives, and you’re not going to be beaten over the head with a giant Bible either. If you say you’re an open-minded person you should watch this film, because this is what Christianity is, and this is what Jesus can do. He can change the most awful people into better people, and he can mend relationships that shouldn’t have been able to be fixed. And even if this doesn’t change your mind about Christianity and you just loved the song, you should still watch the movie to see the origins of the song.

Quick Summary:

 
 
Real life is more interesting than Christian fiction movies
Secular audiences might find it to be too preachy
Great cast and acting
Low budget might bother watchers
Great soundtrack
 

My Grade: A+:

As a Christian myself, I will tell you I really don’t like Christian movies, they tend to have a lot of things wrong with them that most secular critics rip apart anyway so that’s why I don’t really review them, but I Can Only Imagine (2018) is a wonderful film and while most secular critics didn’t like it anyway for obvious reasons, I really enjoyed the film.

And if you’re just going to say that I’m giving this film an A+ just because I’m Christian, I’m not, I genuinely enjoyed the film. I love the band MercyMe, so I didn’t just watch this film because it’s a “Christian movie”, I watched this because I was genuinely interested in the film, not because I’m a Christian and I always have to “be nice” to a movie because it was made by Christians.

I’m not big on the God’s Not Dead franchise because it runs on the same formula over and over, and all it does is aggravate Atheists and make them roll their eyes, and I’m surprised that Christians aren’t annoyed that they use the same story formula over and over

I highly recommend this movie, not because it’s a portrayal of my faith or because I’m a Christian, I recommend it because it is a good film, it might not have the best budget and you might disagree with me when it comes to the acting, but it’s a great film and it will hopefully inspire you to forgive other people, and realize that forgiveness is something that everyone needs to give to other people, and if that’s the only thing you take away from this film then the movie did its job.

My Rating:

5 stars for Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine (2018)

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