The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Cindy and Jim Green live in a lovely old house with a big garden in an idyllic small town. Jim works at the pencil factory, while Cindy works at the pencil museum, and their families live nearby. But what they want more than anything is a child. They've tried everything, but to their utter sadness, they can't seem to conceive.
Returning home from their final visit to the doctor, Cindy and Jim resolve to move on, but not until one last night of bittersweet dreaming about what their kid would be like. He'd be funny, but not mean; honest to a fault; a Picasso with a pencil; not athletic, but with one shining moment on the soccer field. He'd love and be loved. He'd be the greatest kid. They write all of these attributes down on scraps of paper and put it in a wooden box, then bury the box in the backyard.
What they don't bargain for is what happens next: Timothy appears, ten years old, having all the attributes of "their kid" and calling them Mom and Dad. Could it be? Is this kid for them? If so, they're going to give him the perfect childhood, with wonderful opportunities, a loving family, and all the support he needs to flourish. Even if it appears he came from … the garden. (The leaves growing from around his ankles are a pretty good clue.)
Timothy is enrolled in school and makes a friend—Joni, who has a creative spirit and some oddities of her own—and brings joy to everyone he encounters, from Cindy's grumpy boss to his ailing Uncle Bub to his own parents. He has all the attributes Cindy and Jim wanted for their own kid. And so he becomes part of the town.
Of course, no amount of parental care can guarantee that everything will go right in life—for the child, or for the parents, either. And while Cindy and Jim are discovering this, Timothy is keeping a secret of his own.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a fairy tale that deals with some very real issues: infertility, parenting, and adoption. It's also a family film, in the best sense: it's about family, it's for families, and it's funny and whimsical enough to satisfy both parents and children. (Because of this, we can forgive the occasional narrative gaps—this is not happening in the real world, and the story doesn't need to hew to the logic we demand of realism.)
It's well acted, too: Garner and Edgerton's sadness, hope, and growth are convincing and fun to watch, and CJ Adams—still a relative newcomer—is flat-out fantastic as the oddly prescient but still childlike Timothy. The stellar supporting cast—including Dianne Wiest, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Ron Livingston—round out the town, which is shot mostly in luminous autumn light. I defy you to watch this without smiling.
The film's flaw is simply that its moral is muddled. There's something here about being proud of what makes you different, and also about learning that parenting is never simple. And the idea that Jim and Cindy get to parent a perfect child in order to find out they're not perfect is confusing, if not a little troubling.