I Can Only Imagine (2018)

PG   |    |  Biography, Drama, Family

I Can Only Imagine (2018) Poster

The inspiring and unknown true story behind MercyMe's beloved, chart topping song that brings ultimate hope to so many is a gripping reminder of the power of true forgiveness.




  • I Can Only Imagine (2018)
  • I Can Only Imagine (2018)
  • Cloris Leachman and Madeline Carroll in I Can Only Imagine (2018)
  • I Can Only Imagine (2018)
  • Dennis Quaid in I Can Only Imagine (2018)
  • J. Michael Finley in I Can Only Imagine (2018)

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20 April 2018 | brianjohnson-20043
| As an atheist and former Christian, I thought it was ok. Not Christian Propaganda
This movie is interesting for me to review. If it weren't for Moviepass, I probably never would have seen it. But I'm glad I did, because it has a lot of interesting things to contemplate and discuss which couldn't/wouldn't really be discussed by me if I hadn't seen it.

The directing seemed fine. The acting seemed fine. The story seemed fine. And those are most important for any movie.

Prior to seeing the movie I listened to the song. Surprisingly, I couldn't recall ever hearing the song before hearing about this movie. And I used to listen to Christian music and regularly attended Church prior to college.

As an atheist I obviously dislike the message and assertions of the song; Not because I'm a cynic as much as because I'm a realist. I want assertions to comply to evidence rather than pick evidence which complies to our emotionally preferred assertions. But it's more than the message of the song which I object toward. I don't particularly care for the aesthetics of the song. Although they're not terrible. I don't have very mainstream music taste, instead preferring music that's a bit quirky, instrumental centered and irreverent.

Nevertheless, I'm reviewing a movie, and my movie taste is more mainstream. And I find it worth investigating the story of how this song came to be, seeing that it's had such a big cultural impact.

Like every film based on a true story, I wonder how many liberties were taken with the retelling. Although I have experience with the Christian mindset, I had no specific knowledge of the specific accounts of this story.

I'm guessing there were small typical embellishments. Some of the scenes seemed somewhat tailored to create a formulaic movie narrative. I have more issue with tailoring reality than a movie having a formulaic plot.

One example: The events which led Bart to return to his father seemed difficult to believe happened exactly that way. I'd hazard a guess that in real life this transition happened more gradually or with different factors playing different degrees of importance. But overall there was nothing that seemed significantly outside the ordinary for a movie story. If there were major revisions to the story, it's a testament to the execution of the movie and my lack of former information that I couldn't detect them.

What was much more noticeable was that the last third of the movie seemed to be a slower pace than I'd prefer. The first part leading up to his band's audition in Nashville seemed nicely paced, It was the rest which seemed a bit slower than ideal.

One of the strengths of this film to me is that its focused on telling the story of a band member and his path to creating his well known song. His faith was obviously a component since he's a Christian musician. But the movie isn't a propaganda piece for Christianity, despite what many lovers and haters of the film have said.

It's intention is telling a good story. And if it led or leads people to Christianity, so be it. Islam is a major part of The Kite Runner, but the point of the film isn't to make viewers convert to Islam. Although it probably did just that for some people. I can only imagine is similar except, unlike The Kite Runner, it's based on a true story. I think fellow religious and Christian skeptics are mistaken when they review this movie as a Christian propaganda piece. It seems to more accurately speak of some inner hatred toward Christianity or religion than a fair assessment of the movie.

Of course there were certain exchanges in the film in which I found irritating. For instance Bart's astonishment of how much God's rehabilitated his father late in his life. Does God get credit for the father beating his son and wife earlier in the story? No. But the character thinking this way was believable indoctrinated thinking for a religious character.

Typical Christian thinking is wanting to have something both ways depending on the circumstance. Religious faith is littered with contradictions of opinion related to God's agenda or intentions. One moment God gives us a more true knowledge than anything else. The next moment it's essential for God to keep us ignorant. One moment God is virtuous. The next moment God is killing thousands in a flood. God is ever-present and loving one moment, and neglectful and mysterious the next.

The narrative for the God's agenda always hedges toward his presence being real, and conveniently, the assertions of his intentions are usually made after the facts or narrative has already been asserted or established rather than prior. If a former religious belief is disproved with science, it becomes a metaphorical piece of the religion. And if a prayer ever goes unanswered, the explanation is that God is mysterious, or lets bad things happen to bring people to him.

But with my mini rant aside, the film has an interesting story. It's better crafted than some other movies I've seen recently like Isle of Dogs or The Florida Project. I might be an atheist, but that doesn't make me obliged to like a film like Sausage party more than a film like I Can Only Imagine. For the record, I like I Can Only Imagine more.

During the film I didn't cry like many people, although certain moments struck me as sad and touching. It seems to me the important thing is to remain investing in better understanding life and enjoying the ride.

I disagree with Christianity, but I find this film worth seeing and thinking about. Especially if one isn't Christian. And if one is Christian, I especially recommend checking out a film like Inherit the Wind or The Man from Earth. Not because those movies are about atheism, but because like this film, they're good movies except with atheism playing a part in the stories.

Too often we decide that because there's a component to a story that conflicts with one's religion or group, that there's nothing of use in the story. That's a path to people being more hostile and unreasonable to one another than necessary. Whether we like it or not, we have to live with one another, and we're better suited to do so if we understand one another.

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