Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Amy Winehouse, and... MercyMe? The Christian-rock band is the latest musical act to receive the big screen film treatment, and it's all thanks to its massive hit song, "I Can Only Imagine."
The indie film, also titled I Can Only Imagine, tells the story of how MercyMe singer Bart Millard (J. Michael Finley) found the inspiration to write one of the most popular Christian songs ever to grace the airwaves, specifically focusing on his changing relationship with his verbally and physically abusive father (Dennis Quaid) from childhood to adulthood.
The purpose of the film isn't to make people sad, however. Instead, filmmakers Andrew and Jon Erwin told USA Today that it's all about love, hope, and forgiveness as it depicts the changes Millard's father experiences in himself and in his relationships after learning he has cancer. The song, too, was written about Millard's loss and the questions he found subsequently arose about faith and God.
"I think the biggest thing is, there's no agenda: We're not trying to shove the Bible down anybody's throats," Millard told USA Today of the hit, which sold an incredible 2.5 million copies. "I'm asking the same question many people have wondered, whether you go to church or not, like, 'OK, God, if this turns out to be real, if we die and we get [to heaven], how am I going to respond?' There's no answers in that song, it's all questions."
Just like the song, the film has religious themes; but it's not meant to be a strictly Christian movie. Instead, it hopes to connect with anyone who has experienced loss or other hardships. It's expected to draw people from all backgrounds out in big numbers, too. According to Indie Wire, faith-based films have been doing increasingly well in theaters over the past few years as people seek out more uplifting content.
In a recent Instagram post, Millard said he hopes I Can Only Imagine will propel this trend and convince Hollywood producers to create more films like it.
"The first week is kind of like the first impression for Hollywood. That's when they take notice, when people show up to see these movies in big numbers," he told fans. "Our goal is, we want more movies like this made. Every time these faith-based movies are made, they get better and better, and the only way you can get their attention is to buy tickets and go see them."
I Can Only Imagine officially debuts in theaters on Friday, March 16.