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Movies Review

'The Odd Life of Timothy Green' review: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton

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Released on Friday, Apr 5 2013

Director: Peter Hedges; Screenwriter: Peter Hedges; Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse; Running time: 105 mins; Certificate: U


If you believe that fairies live at the bottom of the garden, then you might just find yourself in movie heaven (or a rubber room) with this whimsical yarn starring Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton. Others will be left nonplussed by a story that casts the aforementioned as a married couple desperate to have a child and then find one, freshly sprouted from a hole in the front yard.

Garner gives a master-class in dewy-eyed melancholy in the opening stretch, but writer/director Peter Hedges is also quite practiced in the art of balancing sadness against dreamy optimism (with credits including Dan in Real Life and the script for What's Eating Gilbert Grape). Here, though, it's just a little too much to take when those dreams magically come to life in physical form.

After failing to conceive for the nth time, Jim and Cindy Green indulge in what is supposed to be a therapeutic exercise; making a list of all of the qualities their child will have. But this looks more like denial. It's even slightly uncomfortable to watch, because with so much wine flowing and shrill laughter, this could just as well be the precursor to Cindy's nervous breakdown.

Instead, that night, thunderclouds gather over the house and after a quick watering, the earth throws up Timothy (CJ Adams), a little boy with leaves on his ankles. Garner turns on the waterworks, too, when he calls her 'mum', and then comes an endless summer with lots of picnics and ball games in the park, and yet more denial for Jim and Cindy who too quickly accept the situation as normal.

Jennifer Garner, The Odd Life of Timothy Green


They're also put on a steep learning curve - as are all new parents - but these two get off relatively lightly when it comes to coping with the usual growing pains. Of course little angel Timothy is the more enlightened being and imparts life lessons about 'being yourself' (foliage and all) while mum and dad must come to accept that he is rubbish at baseball and in many ways, a bit 'special'.

At school, Timothy is an obvious target for bullies, though scowling loner Joni (Odeya Rush) eventually becomes his friend and confidante. It's a relationship of little consequence, except that it further unsettles the Greens who fear that Timothy might be ostracised for being part boy, part sapling. Another subplot has him inspiring dad to invent a new type of pencil.

Okay, so the pencil is pretty cool, but the emergence of Timothy from the bowels of Mother Earth is nothing short of a miracle, so his contribution to the lives of mortal people should probably amount to more than innovative stationery - especially in the digital age. Throughout, the plot turns with small effect and with such cuteness that you may as well be watching kittens chasing string on YouTube.

Hedges aims this at all the family, but it's unlikely that kids or adults will take much away from it. What's obvious from the start is that Timothy is on borrowed time (shedding leaves as he goes), but themes of love and loss are only sketched into a wider picture that has no focal point. Hedges usually strikes a better balance of darkness and light, but with this film, reveals feet of clay.

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