Making the Grades
Odd is the perfect way to describe the film The Odd Life of Timothy Green. The cinematically gorgeous production asks viewers to suspend their hold on reality (especially when it comes to government agencies) for the sake of enjoying this fantastical tale about a most unusual boy.
Devastated by the news that they will never be able to conceive a child, Jim and Cindy Green (Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Garner) mourn the doctor’s report by penciling a list of all the characteristics and qualities their unrealized child would have—things like a sense of humor, a big heart, honesty and the ability to love and be loved. Then they place all those little slips of paper in a wooden box and bury it in their backyard outside the small town of Stanleyville where both are employed by the Stanleyville Pencil Company.
Now I’ve grown a garden for 25 years and have yet to sprout a child, but quick as Jack’s magic beans grew into a gigantic beanstalk, a boy germinates in the soft soil of the Green’s plot. Still muddy from his incubation among the vegetables, Timothy looks like any other 10-year-old except for the leaves growing on his legs. His sudden arrival requires an explanation to family and friends (though the fact about the garden is conveniently avoided). However that seems like a small sacrifice for Jim and Cindy who are thrilled with their new role as parents.
Timothy, a gentle, serious soul, quickly becomes an easy target for school bullies and an unlikely competitor on the soccer field. Yet, he also possesses the ability to relate to the elderly (M. Emmet Walsh), the unlikable (Dianne West), the aloof (David Morse) and the outcast (Odeya Rush). But his compassion comes at a cost.
In reality, the story is less about Timothy than it is about the hopes and expectations of his parents. While trying to create a perfect boyhood for their new son, Cindy and Jim find themselves drawn into the competitive venture of childrearing, where bragging rights are paramount. They are also forced to face the disappointments they experienced in their own childhoods. During all of the Green’s frenzied attempts to be the flawless parents, Timothy remains a quiet, calming presence in the home.
Any parents willing to be honest would probably admit there are things they’d do differently if given the chance to raise their child again. Some knowledge only comes with experience. Timothy gives this inexperienced couple a chance to learn what things are really important as a parent. Kids in the audience likely won’t appreciate the lesson. But maybe the adults sitting beside them will leave the theater less worried about what their neighbors’ (or sibling’s) kids are doing and more interested in helping their own children blossom.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Odd Life of Timothy Green.
Cindy’s sister considers drawing to be a “waste” of time. How does Brenda choose to fill her time? Why does she consider her children’s activities to be more important than the things Jim, Cindy and their son Timothy are pursuing? How do these interactions depict the competitive nature of some parents? Can a parent’s good intentions or aspirations result in over scheduling a child or undervaluing individual talents, temperaments and interests?
What things do Cindy and Jim learn about standing up to others? How do they grow in the role as parents? What things do they say they would do differently next time? What things as a parent would you change if given the chance?
How can family and friends support couples that are unable to have children?