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MOVIES: ‘I Can Only Imagine,’ an exception

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — I recently received a notice of an upcoming release that warned in typical fashion: “This film is Rated R, for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material.”

Not only does it seem that moviemakers are incapable of telling a simple story without added crudity, but some moviegoers have become so accepting of graphic content they feel cheated when it’s not there. That’s an assumption on my part, but what other explanation is there for the acceptance of noxious material in nearly all of the films people pay to see?

Fortunately, there are exceptions. “I Can Only Imagine” is one of them — a moving portrait of the power of forgiveness.

The new-to-DVD release manages to captivate and inspire without the usual offensive elements.

The true story, which posted a strong box office performance in the weeks after its March 16 opening in theaters, is based on the now iconic song by MercyMe’s Bart Millard, here played by J. Michael Finley. It becomes available today (June 12) from Lionsgate and Provident Films on DVD, On Demand and in a Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital).

The movie memoir concerns a young man who finally leaves the home of his verbally and physically abusive father after finding an emotional escape through music. It masterfully explores the subject of forgiveness for parental putdowns that can bruise the psyche as much as physical mistreatment.

As with the now beloved song, the movie, rated PG for thematic elements and several moments of domestic violence, illustrates how forgiveness founded on God’s love can heal a wounded life and witness to the reality of the Christian faith.

Two lines struck me during my viewing of the picture. “You’re not good enough” and “If God can forgive everybody else, why can’t he forgive me?” Have you ever had to consider one or both of those statements? I Can Only Imagine addresses each in a revealing and constructive manner. What’s more, it does so without assaulting the senses. There’s no obscenity or crudity, and just enough acted-out degradation to set the stage for forgiveness without making you want to leave the room.

Dennis Quaid — giving an award-worthy performance as a troubled father — and Trace Adkins also star in this music-filled drama. The home entertainment versions feature over three hours of extras, including seven deleted scenes, seven in-depth featurettes and an audio commentary.

The made-for-TV “Amish Grace,” back in 2010, also was a powerful experience in exploring the nagging question — how do we forgive? Kimberly Williams-Paisley (“According to Jim,” “Father of the Bride”) starred as Ida Graber, an Amish woman dealing with the tragic loss of her daughter who was shot by a crazed outsider who swore vengeance on God when his own baby girl died.

Amish Grace dramatized the wonder of Christ’s intervention through the lives of those seeking to follow His call to forgive.

Ida Graber eventually forgave her daughter’s killer. How do you do that? The human nature can’t do that alone, can it? But Ida’s testimony revealed that forgiveness can be achieved, and the film explores how it restores and enriches the one who forgives.

As to the excessive content found in most of today’s serious films, it doesn’t look like the pendulum will swing back to a more moderate time. But when there are exceptions, such as I Can Only Imagine’s insight into forgiveness, we need to be vigilant in regard to an industry not known for its restraint.

Ever since the Garden of Eden, God’s directives and the soul of man have been under attack, now particularly through the powerful mediums of television and motion pictures. The truth is, Satan governs much of the airways — and most of what appears on little pieces of celluloid.

Perhaps we have evolved into beings capable of processing any amount of abuse Hollywood puts before our eyes. But is that what our Creator intended for us?

Two Scriptures come to mind:

“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).

“I will set before my eyes no vile thing” (Psalm 101:3).

Isn’t that instruction for how we should conduct our lives just as applicable to how we entertain ourselves?

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright