You may have missed The Odd Life of Timothy Green. It slipped into theaters at the end of the summer just as we were heading back to school. It is a lovely autumn movie, filled with golden leaves and burnished tones. The Odd Life of Timothy Green arrives on DVD as that rare film that works for parents and kids, giving all of us a deeper appreciation of the gift and challenge of family. It is also a compelling portrait of adoption, how waiting and longing can turn into redemption for all.
Timothy Green’s story begins with the heartache of plenty of couples–eager for a child—confronting the painful reality of infertility. Yet, Jim and Cindy Green want to hold onto their dreams for one more night. They list all the attributes the child they long for would embody. Disney magic follows. Yet director Peter Hedges restrains the fantasy elements of The Odd Life of Timothy Green.
He may be wide-eyed, but Timothy seems less innocent and more knowing than his adopted parents. C.J. Adams is quite convincing as the boy who springs from their garden with leaves on his ankles to prove it. As the hopeful parents, Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner explore buried aspects of their characters raised by their surprising child.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green could offer a telling commentary on genetically engineered kids. After all, won’t emerging biotechnologies allow parents to choose certain traits and strengths in a child? Yet, the Greens believe they’ll be satisfied with a child who knows what it means to love and be loved. When their dreams become real, the challenges of parenting surprise them. Talks about girls and dating are more awkward than we imagine. And we take defeats in soccer far more seriously than we anticipated. Despite our best efforts to create a perfect childhood, life intervenes in the form of bullies.
Timothy’s ups and downs play out against the backdrop of a factory closing. Jim works at the Stanleyville Pencil Factory. Cindy gives tours at the ancestral home of the Crudstaff family, proprietors of the factory. Efforts to preserve the endangered jobs making pencils follow a predictable route. The town hall meeting feels straight out of a Frank Capra movie circa 1934. At a time when most films attempt to be bigger, louder, and faster than their competition, it is somewhat comforting to encounter an earnest, feel good fable. In a world of naughty, nice can be a relief.
Yet, The Odd Life of Timothy Green doesn’t shy away from death, disappointment, and dreams deferred. It is framed by the Greens making a case for why they’d make great parents. For adults wrestling with adoption, Timothy Green demonstrates how welcoming a child transforms us. The potential for pain is eclipsed by the gift of life. As the season of Advent arrives, we are all reminded how a baby breaks in at inopportune times. Yet, the challenge remains for every heart to prepare him room.