Imagine a young couple who desperately hopes and prays to have a child. Now imagine that their dream is fulfilled — in the most unusual way. That's the promise of The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a charming, wholesome family film that takes moviegoers on a unique journey through a fantastical and heartwarming tale.
Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) Green have been trying to have a child for several years, but begin to lose faith that their dreams will ever come true. After they are told that they are unable to have children, they grieve over the nearly unbearable news and decide that they need closure. They write their hopes for a child on pieces of paper and bury them in their yard. The papers include not only their wish for a child, but for the type of child they had hoped to rear: one who is honest and loving, and one who may even score a winning goal in a sport — a trait that neither parent could take credit for as they are both poor athletes.
Much to their surprise, their hopes are not buried for long. They spring to life in the form of a young boy, Timothy Green (CJ Adams). He is born out of their hopes and literally "grows" out of their yard after a heavy rainfall.
It is clear from the start that Timothy is no ordinary child. After all, he did spring from the ground, and he even has leaves growing from his legs.
Naturally, the couple is curious about Timothy’s leaves, but he immediately quells their curiosity, replying, “Please don’t ask me about my leaves. You can look at them — if you want.”
Perhaps under normal circumstances, such a simple statement would not put an end to their endless barrage of questions. But Jim and Cindy are still recovering from their grief at the notion that they would never be parents. And when Timothy refers to them as “Mom” and “Dad,” all sense of the rational flies out the window. They immediately recognize Timothy to be a miracle and believe that he is the child for whom they hoped and prayed.
They launch right into the role as his parents and strive to be the best they can be. They enroll him in extracurricular activities and cheer him in all his endeavors, even if he comes up a bit short. They do everything they can to make Timothy feel like a normal child. They even take him to work for “Bring Your Child to Work Day.” And the more they get to know him, the more they recognize that he is in fact the child that they imagined and carefully constructed on the pieces of paper they buried in the ground on that fateful day.
But nothing wonderful in life comes easily. There is a mystery surrounding Timothy Green that will change Jim and Cindy in a profound way.
Moviegoers require one major tool in order to enjoy this film entirely, and that is a suspension of disbelief. Naturally, a number of questions arise from the film about Timothy’s creation and just how Jim and Cindy could accept Timothy’s presence as simply as they do, but any efforts to find those answers would undermine the film’s fable-like nature. Nobody questions how a tortoise and a hare have acquired the communication skills to orchestrate a race, or how three pigs are able to build homes for themselves without having opposable thumbs. For the same reasons, it's best not to attempt to dig too deeply into the foundation of the Timothy Green fantasy.
For the most part, however, moviegoers are likely to give in relatively easily to this fairytale because it holds a great deal of beauty and truth, even in the midst of magic and mysticism.
Quite realistically, the relationship between Timothy and his new parents is shaped by the relationships his parents have with others. For example, Jim is determined to make an athlete out of Timothy, even though Timothy is completely disinterested in athletic success. Though Timothy is more than happy to simply bring water to the better athletes, that is not good enough for Jim. It comes out that Jim’s drive to make an athlete of his son is inspired by his own strained relationship with his father.
Likewise, Timothy’s unique and quirky nature inspires quite a bit of bullying and mockery. He and his parents are forced to confront some of the ugliness of this world in much the same way that American public school students are confronted by bullies. And like many other parents, Jim and Cindy have a hard time navigating through these experiences, making a number of mistakes in the process.
In the end, Timothy’s existence helps his parents to learn and grow. And his impact is not limited to just them; he touches the lives of many of those around him. All those who get to know him are the better for it.
It seems that the makers of this film missed a prime opportunity, however, to pay homage to the only entity capable of such miracles as Timothy’s creation: God. In fact, the film does not even attempt to answer how the child came about, but Christians who recognize the miraculous nature of the creation of each and every child may find disappointment in the fact that this film does not assign this particular miracle to the one and only Miracle-Maker.
Still, the parents in this film do call Timothy’s appearance “miraculous,” and that remark alone may serve as a subtle implication of the Maker behind the miracle. And the movie’s overall message seems to be that all children are in fact miracles and should be treated as such.
Likewise, there are some allusions to Christianity including a church choir and an adoption agency called Sisters of Mercy.
Most amazing is that The Odd Life of Timothy Green is indisputably a positive family film. The film’s elements are wholesome and the morals are ones that no parent would likely dispute. It's a magical tale about a miracle that all should enjoy.