Bart Millard always loved to sing, but he grew up in a broken home. His mother left while he was young, and his father beat him and told him he would never amount to much. When Bart failed high school football due to injuries, he and his father spent as little time around each other as possible. Out of this, Bart began singing in high school plays and was told that he had a special talent for the stage. This led Bart to pursue a career in Christian music, but life on the road was hard. When he was forced to make a pivotal decision at a crossroads in his career, Bart was finally faced with having to go back to reconcile with the person he came to hate the most: his father.
Production Quality (3 points)
What else can be said about the talent of the Erwin Brothers at this point? They have clearly mastered production quality, especially when it comes to historical epics. The attention to detail in I Can Only Imagine is exquisite. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are flawless. With Brent McCorkle involved, the soundtrack is always going to be a hit. Sets, locations, and props in I Can Only Imagine are excellent and demonstrate wonderful historical authenticity. This content-packed epic is edited nearly to perfection. In short, it’s rare to have a perfect production, but the Erwin Brothers are still schooling the industry in how it’s done.
Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)
Naturally following their epic film Woodlawn, the Erwin Brothers seem to have found a niche in biopics. The story of Bart Millard is one that is absolutely worth being told, especially since so many people are familiar with MercyMe and their original breakout hit single, which is the title of this film. What some audiences may not expect is the profound and timely message this film has to offer. This film is more than just another inspirational film to grab cash from a willing audience. In typical Erwin fashion, I Can Only Imagine is the film the western church needs now. Besides this, the characters are very realistic, authentic, and easy to access via believable dialogue and back stories. Each character is flawed and gray rather than black and white. The only nitpick to note here pertains to some minor typical elements and a slightly predictable ending, but the story was limited by reality, so this complaint is very minor compared to the excellent work of art this film actually is.
Acting Quality (3 points)
The Masters of Casting did their homework once again in crafting a cast that was true-to-life to the real people behind the story. Each actor and actress is cast appropriately and assume their roles very well. Costuming is excellent and correct for the time period. Dennis Quaid likely posts one of the performances of the year as a very complex three-part role. In the end, there are little to no errors to raise about this film, which has become the norm of the Erwin brand.
I Can Only Imagine receives an x-factor point for presenting an extremely important issue in a realistic way. Audiences will flock to this film on the basis of its title recognition alone, but many will receive a message they least expected, yet one that the church as a whole desperately needs. Many, many Christians and those associated with the church are running from parts of their lives that are broken and are not always their fault because they do not know how to deal with them. I Can Only Imagine brings this paradigm to front and center at a time when the message of redemption for broken families needs to be heard. Also, in keeping with their perfect record, the Erwins have notched another one on the Hall of Fame and have possibly taken the top spot of Christian film.
Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points