I Can Only Imagine – Movie Review

We don’t do movie reviews here but after my daughter raved over Bart Millard’s story, I Can Only Imagine, we saw it this weekend.  The theater was packed – only two wheelchair slots were open.  It is a surprise money-maker for jaded Hollywood that thinks family fare is mildly-amusing and slightly tacky. This is the rare story, not of one person’s personal testimony as many movies are, but of what happened to a “monster” father who’s changed life changed the life of his son. Alas, the world is filled with bad fathers, or non-available, or unknown, or vanished into space-time somewhere.

This father, perennial father-actor “The Parent Trap” Dennis Quaid, has failed at everything – sports (his idol), his marriage and after the wife leaves silently, he abuses and berates his talented son and predicts his failure in the music business. Son Bart takes his guitar, jumps on his motorcycle and hits the road.  The filming is beautiful; it looks like Texas’ miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles, and of course the music is tops.

Bart Millard is played by J. Michael Finley. Finley is so good I thought he was the real Bart Millard. So did my friend.  Yes, that good.  Trace Adkins, the cynical music promoter, and old-time actress Cloris Leachman add a little star quality. Bart’s music teacher in high school is priceless. Would to God we had teachers like her by the fistful.

No one has ever done a movie about a song, the product of the changed-man’s witness, which went triple platinum and topped both Christian and Pop Charts. But why was the song so popular? Have we removed imagination from our religious life, from our educational systems? Do we put out everything as fact, as realism and materialism? It’s possible.

Maybe we have children who think every problem can be solved, particularly relationships. Maybe we’ve tried too hard to solve them all. Maybe we have stripped the mystery from living. Have the adults done this to themselves as well? God doesn’t tell us everything, and we don’t need to know everything anyway. Faith is not knowing but still believing.

The movie has little touches …  Bart finding the doctor’s cancer diagnosis and it never being discussed – Quaid wearing a shiny gold wedding ring up to the end of his life, the finding of an old journal in the attic. Absent a father, you can see how a silent God steps in to guide this talented boy. No matter how hard we try the past is never really the past until it is dealt with.

The Bible predicts that in the End Time before Jesus’ return fathers and sons will be reunited. For all mothers, fathers, daughters and sons this is a prophecy we can claim from Malachi.

Someone said “it takes a village” to raise a child. I disagree. I believe it takes a father.

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