Tuesday, June 12, 2018

I Can Only Imagine Adoption Movie Review

When Bart’s mother leaves, he is left to be raised by his emotionally and physically abusive father. Bart’s father consistently tells him not to waste time dreaming or following his interests, but does encourage him to play football. An injury on the field leads Bart to a music class, and although a teacher discovers that Bart is gifted, his father is unsupportive. Bart ultimately leaves home to pursue a career in music, but he is quickly disheartened, and continues to have unresolved feelings towards his father. Fortunately, Bart is able to make peace with his father before his father dies, and his reflections on his father’s conversion to Christianity and subsequent death and anticipated arrival in Heaven lead Bart to pen the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” which brings inspiration to many and launches Bart’s musical career.


 The Adoption Connection

Some viewers may relate to Bart’s experiences; his father was abusive, and his mother left. They may also relate to Bart’s feelings towards his father – anger and pain at what has happened, but an eventual openness to forgiveness and reconciliation.

The film presents a connection between the discouragement Bart received from his father and Bart’s reaction to negative but constructive feedback from music executives. The scene highlights for me the fact that no behaviors or reactions exist in a vacuum, and most behaviors and reactions make sense within a certain context. Part of effectively parenting kids from hard places might be working to understand the internal contexts which inform their behaviors and reactions.

Strong Points

Bart ultimately forgives his father and finds healing. The healing that Bart finds also helps others to find hope and healing in the face of their own losses.  


Some viewers could be triggered by Bart’s dad; when Bart is young, his father burns a project that Bart had worked on. When Bart his older, his father physically abuses him, and he and Bart nearly come to blows.

Bart tearfully wonders what he did to make his mother leave him. We see him chasing after the van that is taking away the last of her belongings.


I Can Only Imagine could appeal to some older teenagers, but seems most likely to appeal to adults. Some viewers could be triggered by the abuse and abandonment that Bart experiences, but the film provides a good opportunity to reflect on the way that childhood experiences can impact a person’s behaviors and reactions into adulthood. For folks considering becoming foster parents, this film could be an invitation to begin thinking about the experiences that your kids may have had and how their undesirable and hard-to-understand behaviors might reflect their experiences rather than their character.

Questions for Discussion

Why did Bart react so negatively to the music executives’ negative feedback?

How was Bart able to forgive his dad?

What gifts do you have that you’d like to pursue?

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