THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN
Directed by: Peter Hedges
Written by: Peter Hedges (screenplay) and Ahmet Zappa (story)
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, David Morse, Rosemarie DeWitt, M. Emmet Walsh, Dianne Wiest, Ron Livingston, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Common
There’s nothing that I find more grating in the cinematic universe than an overly precocious child who teaches everyone around them to be a better person and that – gosh darn it – life should be celebrated. THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (or TIM GREEN: FREAK OF NATURE as I refer to it in my house) has all the right elements for me to get my hate watch on, but shockingly it doesn’t rub me that way. Things that could be considered manipulative, cloying, and sinister (if you edit and re-score the pic to be a horror film – somebody please do this!!!) come across as sweet, enchanting, and incredibly poignant thanks to the gifted touch of writer-director Peter Hedges (DAN IN REAL LIFE).
Jim and Cindy Green (WARRIOR’s Joel Edgerton and 13 GOING ON 30’s Jennifer Garner) are a couple desperate to have a child of their own. After trying in vain for many years, devastating news is delivered: They can never have a biological child. Left to dream about what could be, and in a drunken stupor, the couple scribble down qualities they want in their child. They bury the notes placed in what we can only assume is some kind of magic box in their backyard garden. This leads to a (quite literal) perfect storm. Suddenly, a muddied young Timothy (CJ Adams) shows up in their home. And he’s the perfect twelve-year-old – well, with the exception of the leaves growing out of his legs. Whip-smart and polite, the little sapling charms the people of the idyllic Stanleyville, including jovial Uncle Bub (M. Emmet Walsh), judgmental Big Jim (David Morse), overachiever Aunt Brenda (Rosemarie DeWitt), Cindy’s curmudgeon boss Bernice Crudstaff (Dianne Wiest), and botanist Reggie (Lin-Manuel Miranda). He even experiences first love with classmate Joni (Odeya Rush). But as fast as Timothy arrived, the faster it seems his time is ticking away.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN never shies away from real life circumstances that people face: Infertility, death, bullying, and job cutbacks play a huge part of this gentle fairy tale. Absent are the fart and poop jokes that usually come with family film fare; instead the film has genuine, sweet wholesomeness and vibrancy. Because of the intense likeability of leads Garner and Edgerton, viewers yearn so badly for these two to have a kid that when one sprouts out of the garden (Xavier Roberts, eat your heart out!), we aren’t stuck pondering the nagging “how” or “why” questions. While the film is far from perfect (the wrap around story at the adoption agency is a little annoying, and Timothy can come across as too saintly and staggeringly naïve), it’s a slow burn of sappy sentimentality.
With so many different forms of family these days, it’s only natural that our films start to reflect these cultural changes. If this teaches kids and adults to be more accepting of other children with disabilities, or that parenting (and the struggle to even become a parent) is hard work, then what’s the harm in a little good old-fashioned Disney storytelling magic? Surrender to it and you will be deeply moved.