“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is not your garden-variety feel-good kids’ film, but it’s a quirky, tender and mature ode to parenting that is equally entertaining for adults and children.
When Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are slammed with the unfortunate news that they cannot have children, they tackle their grief by creating a list of the best qualities for their never-to-be child, put it in a box and bury it in their garden. A miracle happens in the middle of the night and the Greens find young muddy Timothy sleeping in an adjacent room. Besides sprouting from their garden and claiming to be their son, Timothy has one strikingly odd attribute – he has leaves growing on his legs.
As the Greens get to know Timothy they come to realize he personifies every trait they wrote on the buried list. Timothy uses these traits to affect each character’s life in some positive way. Since Timothy is part boy, part plant he is seasonal, making time very much of the essence. We’ve encountered this story of a unique individual who creates positively affects his community countless times before but “Green” feels welcome and fresh.
“Green” avoids syrupy moments that similar family dramas fall victim to. Director Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life”) is respectful of his audience by subtly building the sentiment from the film’s sensitive opening scenes with the Green’s learning they are unable to have children through the film’s touching climax. Despite a scene or two of unadulterated cheesiness, this “Odd Life” is sweet and genuine.
Like any great family film, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” works just as well, if not more, for adults than children. Parents, especially new parents, may find this a more satisfying film than kids. Sure, children will be giddy over Timothy’s quirks and pure enthrallment of his surrounding environment, but parents may be more fulfilled here by connecting with Cindy and Jim Green, who want nothing more than to have the greatest, most extraordinary life for their child. As parents, Cindy and Jim struggle with other competitive parents, schoolyard bullies, childhood romance and heartbreak as well as keeping their jobs to support their family.
The strong script, based on a story by Ahmet Zappa, broadens its reach from Cindy and Jim parenting Timothy to them as struggling children dealing with their own parents. Jim is in a continual battle with his own absentee father (David Morse) and vows to be a better dad to Timothy than his own coarse father was to him.
CJ Adams (“Dan in Real Life”) is the vibrant and effervescent Timothy. His doe-like expressions and matter-of-fact dialogue delivery isn’t too dissimilar to Haley Joel Osment’s android David in Steve Spielberg’s” A.I.” Timothy is ultimately a device to pry open the eyes of everyone around him, but Adams gives the one-dimensional character a good helping of Miracle Grow, making it difficult to not feel strong affection for the character.
Garner and Edgerton are delightful as a couple unsure of what to do or how to act with their unexpected new gift. Their moments of grief to utter bewilderment to joy are realistic and convincing.
The incomparable Dianne Wiest makes a most welcome appearance as Cindy’s crotchety diva employer, who along with many other people in the factory town, is touched by the miraculous arrival of young Timothy.
With a glowing supporting cast featuring Rosemarie DeWitt, Lois Smith, Common, M. Emmet Walsh, Ron Livingston and Shohreh Aghdashloo, as well as a charmingly magical and folksy score by Geoff Zanelli, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is a delightful and bittersweet family film for all ages.