Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
It’s hard not to be affected by such poignant lyrics. Whether you sang along in church or heard the song while casually flipping through radio stations it no doubt left an impression. But have you ever wondered about the inspiration behind the song? Or wondered what could prompt a person to pen such a sweet melody?
I Can Only Imagine attempts to tell the heart-warming story from the very beginning.
Christian band MercyMe didn’t release the powerful song until 2001, but lead singer Bart Millard (played by J. Michael Finley) had actually been writing the hit record his entire life. He just didn’t realize it. Born in Greenville, TX to parents trapped in an unhappy marriage, Bart saw a lot of violence in his home as a young child. The tumultuous relationship with his abusive father only worsened as he got older, but eventually led him down a path of true forgiveness.
Bart’s father Arthur (Dennis Quaid) harbors personal anger and disappointment about his own life, which he in turn makes up for by physically and emotionally abusing his family. After Bart’s mother promptly leaves the family home things only worsen for the young and highly imaginative kid.
I was incredibly moved by the performances of Quaid and Finley in particular. As Arthur, Quaid is menacing, condescending, and unpredictable. The fits of rage come at any moment and at the slightest inconvenience. In my opinion this is the best performance the veteran actor has ever given. Quaid’s character adds so much to the story and I think the success of the overall movie hinges on his portrayal. The audience has to believe that a monster like Arthur can be transformed by the power of God and prayer.
Broadway star Finley portrays Bart as a gregarious easy-goer who wants little to do with his father. He gives an honest performance and comes across as being very relatable and genuine.
The chemistry between the two is powerful. I believed the pain they were experiencing as individuals and as a father/son duo whose relationship is so bruised and broken. Bart carries the scars of his childhood into adulthood and its his desire to sing and make music for a living that propels him to face his father and ultimately forgive him.
This film honestly brought me to tears and I recommend you see it based on the acting alone. I was reminded of another faith-based drama October Baby, which ironically is also directed by the Erwin brothers. Both are worth a watch if you enjoy this genre!
I have a feeling that this little indie is going to do “big” numbers at the box office mostly because of the curiosity factor. Combined with a well balanced script, experienced directors and a more than capable cast, it’s no wonder that faith-based films are on the rise. Similarly produced films Miracles from Heaven and War Room have already proved that this niche of filmmaking is ripe with potential.
I Can Only Imagine is directed by brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin (October Baby, Woodlawn). It stars J. Michael Finley, Dennis Quaid, Madeline Carroll, Trace Adkins, Priscilla C. Shirer, Brody Rose and Cloris Leachman. It is currently in theaters!
What do you think about the rise (and success) of faith-based films like this one? I want to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment down below and let’s get the conversation started.