“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is an odd film indeed.
It’s certainly a family movie, as it’s rife with wholesome values, life lessons, and morals. It’s also a very (very) simplistic story, so it wont go over children’s heads. But I wondered as I was watching it if children would be bored by it… or if this kind of “touching” movie was something they’d like. I wound up having trouble pegging what age range it would be good for.
For adults, this is a movie where you’re not supposed to think, you’re supposed to feel. The picture is less worried about telling you a story than it is about orchestrating an emotional response.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, that takes more than clichés and music and tropes like falling leaves and beams of sunlight.
Shortly after learning that they’re unable to conceive, Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) Green spend an evening drinking a bottle of wine and writing down all the positive characteristics that their imaginary child would have had. On sheets of a pocket notebook, they write down and tear off one positive virtue and attribute after another. When finished, the couple sadly put all the slips of paper into a box and bury it in the garden, symbolizing their desire to move on with their lives.
That night however, a magic rain comes, and with it, a muddy boy. From the garden comes Timothy, a ten-year old (or so) boy who can walk and talk and is calling the Greens Mom and Dad. This miraculous event stuns the Greens, who… don’t ask one eighth of one half the questions that I would have prior to accepting him as their own and enrolling him in school. There, Timothy begins to experience difficulties due to his “oddness” for the first time.
Physically, Timothy has an abnormality that would betray his otherworldly nature. His lower legs have leaves sprouting out of them. Developmentally, Timothy doesn’t know how to swim, or kick a ball. He also chooses odd times to strike tree like postures and meditate as he soaks in the sun. Emotionally, Timothy is odd in still other ways. One of the characteristics his parents put down for him is “honest to a fault”, which manifests itself in Timothy’s personality. Though sweet and friendly, he holds a mirror up to people regardless of the awkward social consequences.
You don’t have to be a movie buff to recognize that this is going to be one of those “magic visitor changes everyone’s lives for the better movies”. Timothy encounters a string of townsfolk who each have their own baggage, and his fresh-faced, unadulterated, simple worldview wisdom is the key to everyone resolving their issues. Unfortunately, as a movie that wishes to have appeal for kids, all of these turnarounds are far too easy to give the adult viewer much to invest in. The people he meets have stereotypical, obvious character issues that they wear on their sleeves, and when Timothy comes along to clear them up, he doesn’t do anything that groundbreaking. His simple presence is enough to affect change.
Instead of complicating the characters or the plot, the movie invests its time trying to stir your emotions. They may skip over questions that would spring to your mind (such as “They can just enroll him in school without a birth certificate?” and “None of their relatives are hammering them about where this boy came from suddenly?”), but they over compensate with lots of scenic autumn shots, beaming sunlight, and emoting actors and actresses. Not that the cast overacts or does a poor job, in any way. David Morse, Diane Wiest, and Ron Livingstone are always awesome to see no matter. As is M Emmet Walsh. The three leads did a fine job, too. You can really get behind Garner and Edgerton as parents, and sympathize with their plight, and CJ Adams is fine as Pinocchio post-”Real Boy”. I just felt that the movie wanted to be very emotional and moving, simply by being emotional and moving.
If you’re easier on “feel good” movies than I am, or if you catch this on a lazy day while clicking through channels, or perhaps if you see it with a kid, who wont be as demanding of it… then perhaps you’ll have a decent experience with it. In the meantime, I have to call it out for taking too many shortcuts.