American films

I Can Only Imagine film review: Dennis Quaid outstanding in Christian music biopic about faith and redemption

It may be formulaic, but Broadway actor J. Michael Finley and Hollywood veteran Dennis Quaid impress in a powerful father-and-son drama that will find fans beyond its target audience

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 6:31pm

3/5 stars

In I Can Only Imagine, the painful life story of a Christian rock band frontman is given the full-length movie adaptation treatment usually reserved for much bigger stars.

Solid if unapologetically by-the-numbers, this story of perseverance and forgiveness should resonate beyond its targeted Christian audience, but may also alienate viewers allergic to the self-important dialogue and streamlined narrative commonly found in biopics.

Loosely based on the story of Bart Millard (played by Broadway actor J. Michael Finley, who looks like a polite Seth Rogen), singer-songwriter of the Texas band MercyMe, the film charts the long and tortuous journey of Bart from his teenage years, when his mother runs away to avoid his violent father (Dennis Quaid), to adulthood, when he finds his voice in pop music and, eventually, writes the chart-topping single of the film’s title.

While it is a little uninspired as a music biopic – Bart’s bandmates remain largely anonymous, and their manager (Trace Adkins) is less a catalyst than witness to Bart’s success – the film is a powerful father-and-son drama which patiently observes the dynamics of the estranged pair. Quaid is absolutely outstanding as the abusive father who seeks belated redemption – and no religious faith is required to appreciate that.

I Can Only Imagine opens on May 24

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