The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is a heartfelt and occasionally cloying fable that asks you to buy into its fantastical premise without any intention of tethering the underlying themes of parenthood and selflessness to reality.
Writer-director Peter Hedges has an impressive track record for intimate ensemble pieces, including What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Pieces Of April and Dan In Real Life.
His latest film might not soar to those giddy heights but it is still life-affirming and moving, wringing copious tears courtesy of a stellar performance from young actor CJ Adams in the title role.
As long as you accept Hedges’s version of events, his film possesses undeniable sweetness and charm.
Once you probe the kinks in the script, such as how a boy can grow from the earth or why an entire close-knit town readily accepts this magical child, the spell is quickly broken.
Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Cindy (Jennifer Garner) live in the North Carolina town of Stanleyville, which is proudly known as the pencil capital of the world.
Alas, pencils are out of fashion and the town is teetering on the brink of financial ruin, which could see factory worker Jim out of work in the very near future.
More than anything, Jim and Cindy want a child but they are unable to conceive. So one night, they decide to write down the characteristics of their perfect child and then bury the box containing these pieces of paper in their back garden.
A freak thunderstorm leads to the blossoming of a boy called Timothy (CJ Adams), who has plant leaves growing out of his legs. A local botanist confirms the leaves cannot be removed but Jim and Cindy don’t care about this aesthetic quirk.
They happily introduce the boy to their dysfunctional family, which includes Jim’s domineering father Big Jim (David Morse) and Cindy’s sister Brenda (Rosemarie DeWitt).
Timothy is a loving, caring innocent who touches the hearts of everyone he meets, even Cindy’s self-obsessed boss, Bernice (Dianne Wiest).
The boy is especially drawn to a girl called Joni (Odeya Rush), who possesses an infectious lust for life.
Their tender friendship plays out as Jim and Cindy learn more about Timothy and the reason he has taken root in their humdrum lives.
Anchored by Adams’s unforced and emotionally genuine performance, The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is a rarity – a family film that should appeal to almost every age group.
Characters are well drawn and colourfully embodied by the strong supporting cast, including Edgerton and Garner as parents who think their dreams have been answered with a miracle.
The bittersweet mood pervades until the final frames when Hedges contrives a satisfying resolution that should leave a few lumps in throats.