The Odd Life of Timothy Green is not entertaining. There’s simply no delicate way to state that and be as accurate. The film isn’t bad; it has committed acting and an interesting story. But it also isn’t good in the way that enjoyable movies resolve audiences with some kind of catharsis. With its incredible premise and unbelievable characters, this film really is odd, but not in a helpful way.
Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) can’t make a baby for undisclosed reasons and want to adopt a child. At the adoption office, the couple is given the opportunity to explain why they would be good parents. From there, the film launches into a flashback, comprising the Green’s experience with a 10-year-old boy named Timothy (CJ Adams) who came into their lives unexpectedly. What makes this story so extraordinary is that Timothy wasn’t so much born as he was grown in the Green’s garden, and composed of all the wonderful traits Cindy and Jim imagined for the child they could never have. Instantly becoming parents overnight, the couple learns the joys and sadness of parenthood, as well as just how special Timothy is, since his presence seems to affect those around him in profound ways.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green sets the tone early with Cindy stating helpfully, “We’ll get a dog,” on the way home after getting the bad news about not being able to reproduce. Then she quickly exclaims pitifully, “I don’t want a dog!” It’s obvious from the get-go that the emotional demand of the audience won’t be much. This is a real shame since there’s plenty of emotional exploration to be had with parents who cannot make a child, but are suddenly blessed with one under the most unusual circumstances. Instead, the film rushes through the first act, minimizing any feelings that might be stirring inside audiences. So before anyone can feel sorry for the couple’s sad situation, Timothy is upon them. Furthermore, there’s no time for suspense, wondering if Timothy is here to stay since the film starts with the couple in an adoption agency, speaking about Timothy in the past tense. Knowing the outcome of the main plot, there’s very little to look forward to during the film.
It also doesn’t help that the film is difficult to believe. Timothy’s entrance into the world is meant to be incredible, but that doesn’t mean that the other characters in the film also have to behave in unbelievable ways. There’s absolutely no reason to think that the woman who makes the decision at the adoption agency (Shohreh Aghdashloo) would or should be swayed by the Green’s story about a magical child from their garden. Furthermore, one of the subplots is that the local factory could go out of business unless a significant change is made, while another subplot is that Timothy has plant leaves growing out of his legs. One character inexplicably ties the two plots together by arguing that if Timothy can grow leaves out of his legs, then the factory can change directions. How does that make sense?
On a positive note, the The Odd Life of Timothy Green does make for a decent family film in that the Green’s love and affection for Timothy are apparent in all of their actions. The couple exemplifies all cautions that every first-time parent takes in securing their child’s happiness and well-being, and it’s genuinely fun to watch. Disappointingly, the film sets up fractured relationships with other family members, but never mends those relationships in a satisfying manner. For instance, Jim resents his father (David Morse) for never supporting him, and when his father finally gets a chance to, it’s in a very cliché and forced way. Similarly, Cindy also resents her sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) for constantly bragging about her three, talented children, but this strain is never resolved.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to know whose story audiences are meant to watch here. It seems like it is Cindy and Jim’s story, but the film spends a lot of time with Timothy as he goes about performing great works for the people in the community. As such, it feels like the film lacks a unified vision, which sadly results in universal disappointment.