Romy Shiller

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

In Film, review on September 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.

Pablo Casals

Storyline: A childless couple bury a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child is born, though Timothy Green is not all that he appears.

Director: Peter Hedges

Writers: Peter Hedges, Ahmet Zappa

Stars: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams

I’m going to recommend this film for children who are about 7yrs. to 11yrs. old. I believe that this is a good film for kids not born from their parents – adopted or foster-care for example. The film is about parents who desperately want a child and the young boy who comes to them.

I also think that this would be a good film for terminally ill children. Even though the subject-matter has nothing to do with death, there are very good examples of ‘letting go.’ This film is not innovative like Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Review), but the emphasis on ‘difference’ is great.

In Collider  writer/director Peter Hedges discusses how difficult it was to get a studio behind such a project. It is super-natural and magical. The thematic undercurrents of familial responsibility are in several of his films such as Pieces of April and Dan In Real Life.

So, this couple learns that they cannot have a ‘natural’ child. They are devastated and imagine all of the qualities and accomplishments their child would have. They write this down and put it in a box. They bury the box in their backyard. While they are sleeping, there is a freakish rainstorm. A young boy comes to them and in a very magical and supernatural way, we assume that he is from the box and garden.

In CinemaBlend Peter Hedges says, “Mary Poppins – she comes and she goes. The Little Prince comes and he goes. It’s an old idea that someone appears and changes people and then they move on. And that’s probably what any good life is. You come out of nowhere, you go away, you made a difference.”

CJ Adams – the young boy – is wonderful and tells The Hollywood Reporter  that he received valuable acting advice for his on-screen parents. “The advice they both gave me was become the character; Think as if CJ Adams is somewhere else like playing video games and Timothy is right there,” he said.

Jennifer Garner plays the mother and blogged : “How do I know if I’m getting it right? Isn’t it my job to parent, to encourage, to help my child define themselves?

Timothy has leaves growing out of his legs. This establishes ‘difference’ and the garden as his birthplace. He is attracted to a very beautiful girl who happens to have a birthmark that she hides. She tells him that they both have secrets. I think that it is necessary to show that you don’t need to be supernatural to feel ‘other.’ It is also worthwhile to reveal that certain bodily ‘anomalies’ are not weird or gross but pretty typical. We all cannot walk around like air-brushed models.

Timothy asks some children he meets at a family gathering, what it was like to come from a mommy’s tummy? His own experience becomes the norm and being born from a mother, strange. The reversal here is fantastic and affirming.

There are valuable lessons about self-image here.

I don’t think most reviews that I’ve read get this film. One might need to wade through the Disney schmaltz to find the value here. Most kids get it. After seeing the film I overheard a boy say he really liked it. No, it is hardly a great film, but it certainly is not the worst.

Joel Edgerton, who plays the father, said this when asked  what drew him to the film: “I really, really remember some experiences, particularly E.T., of watching a movie where the stranger, whatever form that stranger takes, rides into town or lands into town or flies into town or drives a spaceship, and then alters everybody’s life and then inevitably has to leave. I remember being really affected by those stories. The kind of place that those stories kind of hold in our mythology… and it really is part of mine.”

There is a cinematic history here, a mythology that resonates with kids.

William Bibbiani from CraveOnline says, “A story for childless adults made and marketed for the children those adults don’t even have yet.” Absolutely.

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