Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin
Starring – J Michael Finley, Brody Rose, Dennis Quaid
The Plot – 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.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some violence
– Unlike a majority of the films that I have reviewed in this particular genre, ‘I Can Only Imagine’ doesn’t just rely on the propaganda aspects of faith in getting the story over. This is first-and-foremost about Bart’s journey, and even though there are times when that faith comes into play, it’s really his life events that brings the story together, and doesn’t require feeling meandering to those who take it in.
– There’s obviously some heartfelt somber moments in this screenplay, but what surprised me was just how strong the comic backbone was to the film. All of it of course rests on Finley’s shoulders, emoting with honest reactions what gets over the forever child stuck inside of him.
– For a religious film, no cent was spared in this widely eclectic soundtrack that features Electric Light Orchestra, U2, and Amy Grant among others.
– No sentimental moment ever feels wasted or prematurely disposed. Considering the first half of the film feels like a comedy, the dramatic pulse could fall apart by the wayside, but this screenplay’s timely switch-ups harvest a strong feeling of legitimacy that will have you fighting back tears from the same maturity in script that Bart as a character earns with his will to forgive.
– While not everything is a gem with the production (More on the later), a majority of what the brothers Erwin manufacture here makes the camera work and overall visuals feel like a real movie. The revolving shots around the singer in focus are beautifully choreographed, and the transition scenes of the changing scenery around MercyMe’s tour really triggers a sense of the endless battle to be signed.
– With the exception of our lead protagonist, the film has a strong burden in that it doesn’t flesh out a lot of these characters. Particularly, I am referring to that of female lead (Played by Madeline Carroll) and Bart’s abusive father (Quaid). The former is only brought in when Bart requires her, and the latter is given plenty of screen time, but never a connecting of the pieces for why he feels as damaged as he is.
– The passing of time is a bit cryptic in the film. Because there is no on-screen text to commute to us, nor is there much emphasis on how much time has passed, the film continuously feels like one long-running narration, despite the fact that many characters and their respective plots come in and out of frame without much closure for our delight.
– Stumbling editing. One negative that I spotted like a sore thumb in production, is that of the cutting and pasting in editing that felt rushed during a few scenes. It’s definitely the most evident in the opening act of the movie, but if you focus closely you will notice some long-winded dialogue that visually looks like it is cut short before the camera interrupts them.
– As far as biopics go, it’s very rudimentary and even redundant. The overall structure of this film hits a lot of the same notes that films since ‘Walk the Line’ have made a point of including. It’s unfortunate that this film can’t deviate much from those predictable directions, even with the screenwriters taking more than a few liberties with the source material that even Bart himself has highlighted.
– My only problems with the cast are more in their physical appearances. With Cloris Leachman, she kind of just eats up scenery and doesn’t ever evolve into anything other than distracting to the scenes. With Finley, I can’t say much negative for his first feature film performance, but I can’t in good conscience believe for a second that this actor who is 28 years old in real life is believably playing an 18 year old high school kid.