I Can Only Imagine parents guide

I Can Only Imagine Parent Guide

From the ashes of this bitter life comes some of the sweetest lyrics of the soul.

Overall A

Bart Millard (played by J. Michael Finley) reveals the story behind the hit single I Can Only Imagine by the Christian band MercyMe. His journey of faith, forgiveness and healing may be as inspirational as the song.

Release date March 16, 2018

Violence B-
Sexual Content A
Profanity A
Substance Use A

Why is I Can Only Imagine rated PG? The MPAA rated I Can Only Imagine PG for thematic elements including some violence.

Run Time: 110 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

I Can Only Imagine became a hit for the Christian band MercyMe in 2003. While much of the public is familiar with Bart Millard‘s song, not as many are aware of the inspiration behind it. This movie, which bares the same title, attempts to change that.

Telling the story in flashbacks, we meet young Bart (Brody Rose) and learn of his life in a dysfunctional family where he is abandoned by his mother (Tanya Clarke), and regularly beaten by his father (Dennis Quaid). We watch as he meets the love of his life (Taegen Burns/Madeline Carroll) at Bible Camp. And follow his teenaged aspirations of becoming a football star.

His already difficult existence gets worse when an injury on the gridiron shatters both his leg and his future plans. Unable to participate in sports, Bart (now played by J. Michael Finley) ends up in a music class where a dedicated teacher (Priscilla C. Shirer) notices his talent. Although he doesn’t realize it, this is literally his lucky break. When hostilities continue to escalate at home, the teen finds chasing a music career provides a convenient escape route from the abuse.

Yet pursuing fame and fortune in an old school bus touring across the country brings its own disappointments. When a respected mentor (Trace Adkins) suggests he face his past demons, Bart reluctantly returns to his father’s house.

But the man who greets him there is not the same as the one he feared and fled. Instead his Dad is a broken creature, desperate to make amends for past mistakes. Still, Bart is angry and suspicious. And it soon becomes obvious it is not just the prodigal parent who needs some repentance.

Despite the seriousness of the situations, the moviemakers use restraint with their portrayals. It is assumed, but never shown, that Bart’s father is an alcoholic. Foul language is never heard, even in the most heated of confrontations. Parents should be aware that some of the domestic violence is depicted, like physical fights, objects being thrown at others, and a cuff to the back of the head that results in a bloody injury. These scenes, plus some medical emergencies and verbal bullying, may be too frightening for little viewers.

From the ashes of this bitter life comes some of the sweetest lyrics of the soul. Like the musical musings that contemplate what it will be like to meet your maker, the movie’s message is full of hope, grace, and redemption. Even though this is a small budget production, the film beautifully shares the rich rewards of family love and forgiveness.

Directed by Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin. Starring J. Michael Finley, Brody Rose, Dennis Quaid. Running time: 110 minutes. Theatrical release March 16, 2018. Updated

I Can Only Imagine
Rating & Content Info

Why is I Can Only Imagine rated PG? I Can Only Imagine is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements including some violence.

Violence: A child lives in a home where domestic violence is part of his everyday life. We see his father grab him and throw him to the ground, throw objects at him and cuff him in the back of the head with a ceramic plate (which results in a bleeding cut). He is also verbally abused by his Dad, and occasionally bullied by his peers. Abandonment, and other physical altercations are mentioned. A character smashes things when he is angry. A man collapses because of a medical condition. Death is discussed.

Sexual Content: Characters embrace and kiss.

Profanity: None noted.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Alcohol abuse is implied, but never shown.

Page last updated

More parents' guide for I Can Only Imagine after the break...

I Can Only Imagine Parents' Guide

When Bart first arrives at Bible Camp, he is encouraged to write in a journal. Do you keep a journal? How can recording personal musings help you sort out your thought and feelings? How does it help you remember important moments in your life? How can these writings benefit you in the future?

How does the verbal abuse Bart endures affect the way he sees himself? How does it impact his other relationships? What does a mentor figure suggest he do with his pain? How can even bad experiences be channeled into something good?

Bart's father tells his son, "When life hits me, I hit back – harder!" What do you think of his attitude? In what way was does it help him? In what ways does it hurt him? How do you feel about life's challenges? What are your tools for working through tough times?

Bart meets two of his Christian music idols: Amy Grant (played by Nicole DuPort) and Michael W. Smith (played by Jake B. Miller). How did their music touch his life? Has music affected you the same way? Who are your favorite artists?

In the movie, Bart Millard offers his song, I Can Only Imagine, to Amy Grant. Although the movie may depict her response with some artistic licence, the basic facts are apparently true.

News About "I Can Only Imagine"

If you have heard the song I Can Only Imagine by the Christian band MercyMe? If it has inspired you, than you will be interested to know what inspired the lead singer Bart Millard to write the lyrics.

J. Michael Finley stars as Bart Millard in this movie based on his story. It recounts the singer's tragic childhood (where Millard is played by Brody Rose) with his abusive father (Dennis Quaid), and the feelings he had in the aftermath of his dad's passing. It focuses on the power of faith and forgiveness to heal wounds and family relationships.

After suffering an injury during a high school football game, Millard's hopes of becoming a professional athlete came to an end. Millard then took a choir class, little knowing it would change the course of his life. During his first year in college, Millard's father succumbed to cancer. Feeling lost again, he accepted an offer from the pastor of his youth group to help with their worship band. Although he began as a tech assistant, working with the video and audio systems, the experience and the friendships he made along the way eventually led him to pursue a career in music. Forming the Christian band, MercyMe lead to great success.

The song, I Can Only Imagine was written in only ten minutes, but contemplated for about ten years. Millard says the original recording brings a melancholy feel to the question of what it would be like to die and meet Jesus. For the movie, the song was re-recoreded, and this time if has more of a celebratory sound.

Listen to Millard and MercyMe sing the hit single, I Can Only Imagine.

Bart Millard has also written two books about his life experiences: one for youth and adults, and another for young children.

Home Video

The most recent home video release of I Can Only Imagine movie is June 12, 2018. Here are some details…

Home Video Notes: I Can Only Imagine
Release Date: 12 June 2018
I Can Only Imagine releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital) with the following extras:
- Seven Deleted Scenes
- “MercyMe: The Early Days” Featurette
- “Imagine Forgiveness with Bart Millard” Featurette
- “Casting I Can Only Imagine” Featurette
- “The Power of the Song” Featurette
- “Creating Imagine” Featurette
- “The Music of Imagine” Featurette
- Dennis Quaid: “On My Way to Heaven” Featurette
- Audio Commentary

Related home video titles:

The directors of this film, brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin, are also the creative team behind the faith based movies, October Baby and Moms' Night Out.