Film Review The Odd Life of Timothy Green
By Rob Horsley | Friday, August 31, 2012
Photo from Odd Life of Timothy Green website.
I'll be the first to admit that family movies aren't really my thing, though not because I dislike them. As much as I hate to admit it, Disney has some really good writers, and they continue to make some really good movies. But by and large, I don't see a lot of family movies, and sometimes have a difficult time reviewing them.
One of the most familiar concepts for movies is that of the child who has a profound impact on the people around them, including the adults, especially the parents. Movies like Pay it Forward, Simon Birch, and August Rush all teach that children, the smallest among us, are capable of spectacular things, and can have a profound impact on people around them. The Odd Life of Timothy Green comes as the latest installment in the long line of such movies.
What it's about
The movie, directed by Peter Hedges, follows Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton, respectively), a couple who have been unable to conceive a child of their own, despite their extensive medical efforts. Looking to close the book on their lives as potential parents, they imagine what their child would have been like, writing down character traits on slips of paper and burying them in a box in their garden. As they sleep that night, some miraculous force hits their garden, bringing forth a ten-year-old boy covered in dirt, with leaves growing from his ankles. This boy is Timothy Green (CJ Adams), the embodiment of Cindy and Jim's parental dreams.
The film continues by showing the challenges that face Timothy in school and family settings, and more importantly, his honesty and genuine goodness in facing them. As summer stretches into fall however, the leaves on Timothy's ankles begin to change colour, clueing the viewer that more changes may be on the way.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green has a great soundtrack, brilliant visual direction, and a decent cast, but seems to lack the cohesive gel to bind them all into a great movie. As a general moviegoer, I tend to be fairly generous in suspending my disbelief, though it's a stretch in this one, as a number of moments simply seem too unreal. Oddly, it's not the whole 'kid grows from a box in the garden' scenario that I have a hard time with: it's the strange sense of logic that seems to exist in the movie's world: at one point, one of Jim's coworkers takes credit for an idea not his own, and is confronted at the town hall meeting. Rather than a patent lawsuit, things are wrapped up in all of ten minutes via town-wide discussion at the hall.
I'd typically be led to say that the film's thesis is either unclear or so simple that you might miss it looking for something else; something less obvious.
But like I said, family movies aren't usually my thing.
What it's really about
Make no mistake: The Odd Life of Timothy Green is heartwarming. It's ripe (excuse the gardening pun) with illustration of the way that children see the world, a much more fresh and needed perspective, reminiscent of how Jesus believed children to be the best example of grasping the Kingdom of God. One might also be reminded of the parable of the mustard seed, a story about big things with small beginnings, much like the story of Timothy Green. And the whole plot stems from (ahem) a miraculous occurrence, a good reminder to Christians to be hopeful for miracles.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a movie for families, as it's entirely wholesome in nature. It's not a movie for the cynical, or people looking to be harsh and demanding of its simple, familiar, and yet still profound truth.
Cindy and Jim imagine Timothy out of their ideals. They're granted the child they've always wanted. But they spend a good part of the movie trying to hide the ways that he's different (the leaves on his ankles, as an obvious example), as well as downplay his "honest-to-a-fault" genuine qualities.
As I see this, I'm reminded of how embarrassed we are by the way we as Christians are different from those who've not heard the goodness of the gospel. Despite how much different we're supposed to be than the world in which we live, we tend to spend a great deal of time doing our best to blend in, whether that's making as much money as our neighbours and siblings, or participating in things with no redeeming value.
We know how we should be shaped by the ideals that Christ calls us toso why do we hide them? Why do we downplay the good things in our lives? We do we agonize about having a new boat or a bigger TV? Why do we use our children to boost how we feel about ourselves (looking at you, hockey parents), as Cindy and Jim do on numerous occasions?
It could do us a lot of good to look at things with child-like eyes, and question whether all of the 'wisdom' we've acquired over the years has actually made us any wiser to the way things really are.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a reminder of the importance of being genuine, sometimes even more important than being 'good.' It's not about doing good things: it's about doing things well, and from the heart.