“Jim Green” (Joel Edgerton) and “Cindy Green” (Jennifer Garner) are a happily married couple who live in Stanleyville. Stanleyville is named after the town’s most famous former resident, the man who founded the Stanleyville Pencil Making company. There’s a museum in town dedicated to him, and to pencils and that’s where Cindy works. There is a serious drought in the area. Jim works at the pencil factory which is struggling.
The couple are also struggling, trying and failing to have a child. They’ve gone through their savings and beyond that, trying to get pregnant and they’ve just found out that it won’t be happening for them. That’s how they begin the story they are telling at the opening of the film in an adoption agency’s offices, to the people who will determine their fitness to adopt a child. Rather than fill in the part of the application that explains why they are qualified to be parents, they want to tell their story.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green goes on from there to the night that they learn this awful truth. They decide to write down all the wonderful qualities a child of theirs would have, put them into a box and bury them in the garden that Cindy maintains when she isn’t busy working. That night, it appears to rain and when the couple is awakened by some noises in the house, they discover “Timothy” (C.J. Adams) who is around ten years of age, and calls them “Dad” and “Mom”. He also has some strange leaves on his lower legs that can’t be cut off.
It’s a miracle and the brand new parents get to introduce their new son to their family the very next day at a family event. Cindy’s sister “Brenda” (Rosemarie DeWitt) is skeptical and begins pointing out all the reasons there are problems with adopted children. Of course, how could her sister’s adopted child compare to her three, perfect children, might be why she’s so motivated to point out the negatives about Tim.
Tim asks unusual questions, and has a way of standing and soaking in the sun that Brenda finds weird, but he seems to assimilate alright at first. There’s a little trouble with a fight, and he also meets a girl that he immediately finds a spark with. Her name is “Joni” and she has a secret of her own.
The basic idea of a child magically appearing from the garden is appealing. The execution in this case fails to take advantage of the good portions of that basic idea.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is clever to take the little things about the child that were written down and make them come to pass, but the result not exactly being what was intended when the note was written. But that’s the only thing clever about this cloying, maudlin, let’s force you to feel something film. The parents lack depth. Their stories aren’t fleshed out. Tim is a neat kid, but that only takes you so far. His future becomes predictable the moment something happens involving his leaves and this unspoken reality weighs heavily, the 800 lb gorilla in the room that no one else is aware of and he won’t mention. I’m sure this sounded better on the written page than it came to be on-screen. Strong acting talents like Dianne Weist and David Morse just go to waste in this film.
One of the drawbacks and yet advantages of fantasy films, is that the boundaries are stretched much wider than in non-fantasy films. There is no use made of this unshackling of limitations here, and that might have saved what could have been a good film and ends up being a not-so-good one.