I had the opportunity to be a part of an advanced screening of the film I Can Only Imagine. I’ll be honest and say that the only reason I attended was to watch a free movie.

I’m not a big movie-goer, and when I do see movies, I like to make sure that the time I invest will be worthwhile. So, when I first heard that they were making a movie based on the world-famous song, “I Can Only Imagine,” I figured that a group of Christian filmmakers were simply trying to capitalize on the name recognition and success of the song.

I figured that some barely meaningful story had been pulled from the songwriter’s (Bart Millard’s) life to cash-in on what became a phenomenon after the song’s initial release. I figured wrong.

Whenever I watch a Christian-made movie, my guard is typically up. My cynicism cap is securely fastened, and I’m either vocally or silently making fun of how cheesy the movie is.

I Can Only Imagine does have its cheesy moments, but nearly all of them take place in the first few opening scenes. Once the inciting incident happens, though, the tone of the movie becomes more serious. A little over halfway through, I had to take my cynic’s cap off and admit that the story had genuinely captured my attention.

By the end, I was surprised to discover that I sincerely enjoyed the movie. When I found out that I Can Only Imagine had been created by the same producers who made Woodlawn, the quality of the story-telling made a little more sense.

Christian filmmakers still have a little ways to go in terms of quality, but I can honestly recommend going to see I Can Only Imagine. Whether you know the story behind the song or not, the filmmakers (mostly) succeeded in telling it in a compelling way.

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