Director: Peter Hedges
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush
Running time: 104 mins
Release date: April 5
Good intentions fall by the wayside in The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the story of a mysterious boy who touches the lives of others, that is unlikely to connect with audiences.
Upon hearing from doctors that they have no chance of conceiving a child together, Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Cindy (Jennifer Garner) are thoroughly distraught. That night at home, they crack open a bottle of vino and write down all the attributes the infant they so longed for would have had, which they place in a box that they bury in the back garden as a closure exercise. Following a sudden downpour, a young boy of ten—who goes by the name of Timothy and has leaves protruding from his lower legs—emerges from the spot where they buried the box. Timothy, Jim and Cindy then live together as a family, with the peculiar youngster adjusting to everyday life as best he can and his ‘parents’ embracing their new roles as guardians of a child whose origins remain unclear.
Timothy does not fit in easily with his peers—he is hopeless at soccer and not well attuned socially, so Jim and Cindy fret over his development. They keep the leaves on his legs concealed from the view of others in their community, which is threatened by the possible closure of the pencil factory where Jim, Cindy and so many others work. Themes of exclusion, difference and acceptance, of parental anxiety and small-town petty-mindedness are all explored in what amounts to a good-natured attempt at a simple tale that keeps the fantasy element to a minimum.
But its shortcomings are all too apparent. Timothy is placid and doesn’t actually do very much—his main function seems to be to stand there and smile benevolently as others dote on him, turning the other cheek when meanness and aggression come his way. All of which is unlikely to excite younger viewers. It is difficult to tell what exactly the target audience is here; the film takes the form of a retrospective narrative with interruptions that take us back to the present and questions that deliberately remain unanswered in order to maintain suspense—much like it would be if an adult were reading a story to a child. And yet there is significant focus is on the narcissistic tendencies of the parents, even though it could never be classed as an adult drama.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a family film that by definition must cater to a wide audience, but there is so little to stir the imagination that it is likely to elicit an indifferent response from children and grown-ups alike.