Writer-Director Peter Hedges’ (Dan in Real Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?), Disney’s fantasy, working from a story by Ahmet Zappa, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; is about a childless couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgeton) who want a child so gravely that they decide to list all their wishes of his qualities in a box, after given the final “no”, from the experts on their ability to have a child. They bury this box in the garden and after a mystical thunderstorm that rains only on their house, like lightening striking; buried treasures rises out of their garden. Thus Timothy Green (played by C.J. Adams).
The couple not only tries to pass him of as an unexplained, newly arrived adopted child; but also tries to pass him off as normal. He’s not. After Timothy’s unusual arrival to the Green household, is the discovery of leaves attached to his legs that are stronger than pruning sheers. The leaves have a story to tell as well. He has gifts and lessons for all of them through his very wise but equally sweet ways.
All of this is told in flashback to the current time, to the adaptation agency’s gatekeeper, played by Shohred Aghdashloo. A consummate actress, whose eyes are like a picture worth a thousand words, telling so much more than her brief dialogue. She stood out like a light, as the long-suffering, subservient wife of Ben Kinglsey in, the gut-wrenching House of Sand and Fog, which she was Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Her voice is very distinctive like the aroma of a rich deep coffee; a cross between the velvet tones of Anne Bancroft seducing Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate and not quite as hearty as in an old Patricia Neal performance.
The couple wanted an offspring with a “really big heart and who would be honest to a fault” on the top of their litany of the perfect child. This creates a different twist to the previous “child knows best” genre, Boomers delivered after being force fed too many Wheaties and episodes of Father Knows Best. This is a first, that doesn’t somewhere in it have some arrogant sarcasm, to the adults with a condescending jab. Not only does this kid not even have a brazen bone in his body, this child has manners. This can be done without the boy appearing too much of a goodie-two-shoes, because he has an other-worldly sense about him. Although he has old-soul wisdom, he also has new-comer naivety.
He is also an undeniable outsider because of the leaves, as with the couple trying so hard to make him fit to in to the norm, so he won’t have the pain of not being accepted among his peers, (and theirs as well). This is definitely a case for trying to fit a circle into a square peg. But there is a seemingly innocence about the parents trying too hard for their child to be accepted in a world of norms. They of course, have unfinished wishes and wounds from their respective childhood experiences. Now as a Disney film, these wounds are not gone into in great depth, but at least they are addressed which makes the parents seem real; though a bit caricatured and unabashedly, obsessively living vicariously through Timothy.
His “older” female friend plays a multilayer character (played by Odeya Rush). It will be interesting to watch the future of these two young actors.
Without the special effects, spectacle there are shades of shades E.T., and riding the same bicycle as well! With a slight edge of Field of Dreams, instead of deceased baseball players coming out of the corn field, a long-awaited child grows out of the garden.
While all the parents of the kids’ soccer team want their child to be the star, the brightest, the smartest, first in everything. The “boy with leaves”, is so refreshing because he actually cares about all others’ feelings, not just his own friends or family. And this is set to do it in a way that doesn’t come off insincere or unbelievable, because he didn’t come out of his mother’s womb. It is invigorating to see a wonder kid, who places empathy and thoughtful consideration above crassness which have been whitewashed as cool ; or selfishness, masqueraded for self-esteem or strength.
His paternal Grandfather (played by David Morse) with baggage from his son’s relationship, plays well as an American heartland, subtle macho Dad and Grand Dad, with expectations that seem more important that the relationships. David Morse among numerous other roles also played opposite Bjork and Dancer in the Dark, an incredible film with Catherine Denueve, directed by Lars von Trier.
Diane Weist, is deliciously perfect as the old prune, holding the purse strings.
M. Emmet Walsh has a wonderful exchange as Timothy and his maternal Grandfather recognize a kindred spirit during Grandpa’s fleeting moments.
It also has Rosemarie DeWitt and Lois Smith, as this film uses a supporting cast, each with credits longer than their dialogue here. But each does the most with what they have. As good actors do making the unspoken spaces, more important than the lines.
It’s worth the watch to see these seasoned thespians show their craft, in this warm and fuzzy flick.
All this make it an enchanting and enriching experience