It’s almost with cynicism and trepidation that I watch faith-based movies. If it’s a story taken from the Bible, I fear that there the scriptwriters apply their own poetic licence to sprinkle their additives to the story to make it only faintly recognisable. Just like what happens to Mary Magdalene – while it’s an artistic movie, it ends up being just a movie. Uninspiring film with no conviction at all. If it’s a faith-based movie with a contemporary setting, I fear that I will watch awkward dialogues, wooden acting, and preachy obvious storylines.
Thankfully, I Can Only Imagine is not like that. The movie covers the story of how Bart Millard (J. Michael Finley) wrote the iconic worship song, “I Can Only Imagine”. It started with a fractured relationship with his father, played wonderfully by Dennis Quaid as a broken man – violent and emotionally distant. The movie chronicles how his band – MercyMe – was formed, and how they achieved fame through the song. It also tells the story of how God changed and transformed his dad before he passed away.
The movie is wonderfully acted and directed – I can’t remember any corny dialogues or weird wooden acting. I can see faulty characters who have to stand on God’s grace, and not on their own abilities or excellence. In this movie, Bart is not some kind of saintly character who does not forget to say grace before he eats and always acts pious and humble. It’s not a movie about perfect group of people looking down on those who have faults. I read that the typical criticisms of faith-based movies is the reductionist story line, that trusting God will solve every problem. Well, for believers, that’s why we have faith. Although we may have to walk through dark valleys, and although the solution to the issue may not be what is expected by us personally or by the people around us, God ultimately prevails. Sometimes He works instantly, but in a lot of cases, He works through processes to transform us – that may not be cinematic enough to be put in around 120 minutes.
Although this movie is not perfect, I Can Only Imagine is one of my favourite faith-based movies so far. The storyline may be simple and predictable, without complex twists and turns that are often present in contemporary films. The film shamelessly and sincerely wears its heart on its sleeves. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s inspiring – I had tears streaming down my face in some of the scenes. This movie is a perfect example for the fathers and fathers-to-be out there to heed to Colossians 3:21 “Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” – and that throughout anything in life, God knows what He’s doing and He certainly hears us when we pray. He will bring His plans to fruition.