Film Review by Maggie Hames
The Odd Life of Timothy Green feels like a fable, a fabulous tale set in a storybook town. The lead characters, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) even narrate the movie as a story told to an official at an adoption agency. Their town of Stanleyville feels magical, yet it’s peopled with recognizable and surprisingly real characters, considering its amazing plot points.
|Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner|
The day Cindy and Jim are told to “stop trying” by their fertility doctor, they have a touching moment of mourning at home. Cindy wants to move on; Jim doesn’t want to give up. They allow themselves to dream about what their kid would be like: honest to a fault; artistic; musical. They bury these dreams on slips of paper in a box in their garden as a kind of catharsis. But that very night, the boy of their dreams appears in their bed, ten years old, covered in garden soil, and calling them “mom” and “dad.”
This is a hyper-real world: quaint in a metaphor-filled way. Stanleyville is the “World Capital of Pencils” and Jim Green works in the pencil factory; wife Cindy works in the Pencil Museum. It’s just this side of working in Santa’s workshop, but it’s surprisingly believable. This is the world where The Odd Life of Timothy Green can play out, can grow, if you’ll pardon the pun. Because Timothy Green is a real “cabbage-patch kid” who appears to have emerged from Cindy and Jim’s garden and they immediately understand the gift they have received. There’s a touch of old legend here, a bit of the story of Pinocchio mixed with the Japanese tale of the Peach Boy: the child bestowed on a worthy but childless couple by the universe itself.
There’s more than a little Juno here, especially with Jennifer Garner virtually reprising her role as a woman unable to have “a child of her own.” But here, Jennifer is center stage and she’s a marvel. She’s sweet, kind, wounded, disappointed but never down, and able to face everything life throws in her path. And she and Edgerton have great chemistry as a screen couple. I especially love this scene where Cindy and Jim walk Timothy to his first day of school. Cindy’s over-protective without seeming annoying. And Jim is the soul of patience:
|Odeya Rush as Joni gives Timothy (CJ Adams) a lift.|
If you’re like me, meaning an adoptive parent or someone who struggled to become a parent, you will find this film especially affecting. But I bet parents in general will be moved by the simple truths here. Hats off to Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton who will break your heart if you’re not careful. A great love can help us become the best version of ourselves. As Jim says, “With a pencil, all things are possible.” The same is true for love. We’re here to love and be loved. And then you’re done. But if you do it all the way, it’s enough.
Go to this movie with your spouse and bring your kids; this is a family film in every sense of the word. And it’s got resonance. It’s been invading my thoughts and dreams since I’ve seen it. It’s a small miracle.