3 Stars — Wholesome
The Odd Life of Timothy Green joins the genre of films using magic to solve family difficulties.
Best known in the genre is the 1964 musical Mary Poppins, about a nanny who magically arrives riding a gust of wind under her umbrella to serve the Banks family. When the children and parents are reunited, Poppins then flies away on the same wind that brought her.
A similar theme occurs in Nanny McPhee as a homely nanny arrives with a magical cane to assist the Brown family. As she brings her healing influence into the family, she magically loses the warts and moles from her face until her beauty is recognized, and then she leaves the children in the newly capable and loving hands of their parents.
This same theme of a magical person entering a hurting family to bring healing is the plot of The Odd Life of Timothy Green.
Based on a story by Ahmet Zappa, Peter Hedges adapted the screenplay and directed the film. But unlike the usual form of the stories cited above, it is not an adult who arrives on a magical wind, but a child — a child who is raised from the garden as an answer to the hope of a childless couple who desperately need his love.
Jim and Cindy Green (Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner) have tried everything to conceive. When they are informed by their doctor that there is nothing more that can be done, this grieving husband and wife decide to deal with their disappointment by writing a series of characteristics and experiences their child would have had in a small notebook.
From loving and being loved, to being noncompetitive but scoring the winning point to win a game, they place all their hopes in a box and bury it in the garden. It is then that the magic occurs: A storm blows and rains only on their house, and a 10-year-old boy arrives in the garden. Thinking he has run away from home, they come to realize that he is an unexplained gift of a child just for them. As if this is not unusual enough, they discover he has leaves growing out of his ankles. He informs them that he is Timothy (CJ Adams), the only boy name they had chosen for their own child. It is then that they become parents.
Explaining to family and friends that Timothy is their adopted son, he begins to give the gifts of hope and love. But what no one realizes is that as he accomplishes every hope of Jim and Cindy, represented by the leaves, they fall off and his time with them is shortened. This simple story includes the message that parents make mistakes and that children do not have to be perfect.
Also present in the tale is Joni Jerome (Odeya Rush). Joni is a young teen who reaches out and forms a truly loving friendship with Timothy. Since their relationship is based on their mutual appreciation for each other’s quirkiness, this resonates with the audience as we all tend to hide those aspects of ourselves that make us different. Yet it is our uniqueness that actually makes us who we are. Accepting and loving one another just as we are is the wholesome message of the film.
» The desire to have children can be overwhelming when it is denied. Why do you think it took Timothy coming into their lives before Jim and Cindy were ready and willing to adopt?
» The desire for a force bigger than ourselves to help us in times of struggle causes us to create magical tales such as this. Do you think this is an example of our spiritual longings? Why do you answer as you do?
» It is difficult to imagine how the state social worker accepted the story the Greens told them. Do you find it is a weakness in the story, or simply a part of the magic?
— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.