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Rated 3 stars
by 25 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Music, Faith and Inspiration
by Diana Saenger

Distributed by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, the Oklahoma-made film I Can Only Imagine shattered box office expectations bringing in $17.1 million during its opening weekend in theatres across North America. The film also ranks as the #1 independent movie released in America during its opening week and marks Roadside Attractions highest theatrical debut ever.

Faith believers have enjoyed the song I Can Only Imagine ever since it was written by Bart Millard, lead singer of MercyMe, the American contemporary Christian music band founded in Greenville, Texas. The movie is based on the true story of Bart Millard’s life and memoir by Bart Millard and Robert Noland. His life was not good for the young Bart played by Brody Rose, or older Bart by J Michael Finley. Bart’s father Arthur (a gripping and profound performance by Dennis Quaid) is an alcoholic and mistreats his son and wife (Cloris Leachman) so bad that she leaves. Three-year old Bart runs after her as far as he can, knowing he will get even more physical and emotional abuse from his father.

In grade school, Bart bonds with Shannon (Taegen Burns). Later he gets through High School (still being abused by his father) thanks to music and music teacher Mrs. Fincher (Priscilla C. Shirer) and Shannon (Madeline Carroll) who loves him even more now that they have matured. 

When Bart begins to get noticed for his voice and the songs he writes, he joins the band of MercyMe and sets out with them traveling from one place to another. At one point they need a new song. Now a Faith believer, Bart scribbles out “I Can Only Imagine” thinking back to memories of this dad, mom and Shannon. The band contacts manager Scott Brickell portrayed by Trace Adkins. Brickell is enchanted with Bart’s voice and helps the band progress, even arranging a big performance that includes Amy Grant (Nicole DuPort).

As usual there are cynics who find faults with faith-based films and cannot understand that three showings at the theater I saw the film had every seat full. The movie earned a #1 Per-Screen Average (more than $3K above Black Panther). Catalyst Resource Group had the honor of leading the ministry team for I Can Only Imagine and developing the group ticketing outreach. The record-breaking pre-sales put I Can Only Imagine in the top 5 movies for the weekend days before its official release.

Cindy Bond, Executive producer of I Can Only Imagine, developed the story for seven years before partnering with Kevin Downes and the Erwin Brothers to get the film made. Andrew and Jon “Woodlawn” Erwin directed the movie from a story by Alex Cramer and script by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle. Bond believes this true story will connect with viewers who see the film whether they are familiar with MercyMe's music or not, for the theme of overcoming and redemption is universal.

Recommended Audience: Those who enjoy inspiring true stories, wonderful music and great actors.

(Released by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions. Rated “PG” by MPAA.)

Review also posted at

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