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Movie Review: The Odd Life of Timothy Green

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Author/Source: Glen A Woods

Topic: Movie Review, Reviews

A review of The Odd Life of Timothy Green, including description of the movie, areas of concern, teachable themes, discussion questions, and scriptures to use.

Movie Review: <em>The Odd Life of Timothy Green</em>

Overview

Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) Green desperately wanted a child. They tried every possible strategy known to medicine, but it was simply not possible. They were infertile. Heartbroken. Forced to move on, except that Jim refused. He broke out his beloved paper and pencils, the instruments of recording so many of his dreams--no, now their dreams. And together they dreamed late into the night of the child they desired: funny, honest to a fault, loving and capable of being loved... They took each piece of paper and put them into a wooden box. They buried it in their yard. They returned indoors and fell asleep in each other's arms, while outside something singularly odd happened.

It was a fantasy-like beginning to a beautiful story. Timothy entered their lives early the next morning, becoming the fulfillment of their dreams, but in ways they could not anticipate. He turned their lives upside down and their small town along with it.

It is reasonable to anticipate oddness in a film entitled The Odd Life of Timothy Green. And odd it is. It is beautiful in its oddness and also frustrating. It is heart-rending and exasperating. It has an important message to deliver, but nearly fails in its quest. While there is fine acting from most of the cast, particularly CJ Adams (Timothy) and Odeya Rush (Joni Jerome, the young girl who understood and befriended Timothy), the script and directing compels a few scenes to devolve into something more reminiscent of Hallmark movies of the week, than a serious theatrical production. Those scenes are the football equivalent of a quarterback telegraphing his passes to his receiver. Utterly predictable. An eye-rolling experience for the viewer. It was jarring to the narrative.

Having pointed out this exasperating weakness, I also wish to note the film's value, particularly to the Kidology community. This film is about parenting. It is about the love of spouses for each other, the challenges of marital communication, dealing with childhood conflict with parents and siblings, reconciliation, the heartbreak of infertility, the inevitability of making parenting mistakes and again, and again, and again...and growing from it, not giving up despite making mistakes while trying to fix mistakes. It is about honesty and life. The lives we lead trying to appear just so to others, when what we really need is simply to be ourselves in our frailty while learning to love those who reject us as a result. In the end, for reasons you will see in the film, it is also about hope.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green will appeal more to adults than children. Its chief target demographic surely is women, but writing as a man to any men who may read this: set aside your assumptions and need for a Bourne fix for a couple of hours. Watch it with your spouse. Then discuss afterward. Be the husband and father, the spiritual leader of your home. Encourage the parents in your church to do the same. Use the discussion questions below, a set of three series of questions for the parents and a briefer set for the kids. I promise that you will not regret it.

Concerns  

Rated PG for thematic elements and brief language, the movie is safe for older children. Younger or more sensitive children might become a bit frightened by severe weather-related scenes dealing with the arrival and departure of the protagonist. Likewise, there are several scenes of arguing which may scare them. The relationship between Timothy and Joni may alarm some parents because they almost kiss at one point and hug at another. Despite being produced by Disney and its child-like sensibility, the plot and themes of this film are primarily targeted toward adults, not children.

Teachable Themes

  • Be Honest with Discernment and Respect
    • Despite the above-mentioned periodic flaws in the film, it is refreshing in that it takes no prisoners in revealing the layers of flaws in its characters, even Timothy at several points. We would also do well do learn to be honest about ourselves. As we express honesty toward others, however, wisdom suggests that respect and discernment are needed concerning how and what we choose to express to them. .
  • Be Reconciled to Others, Particularly Family Members
    • A primary secondary theme in the film is the sibling rivalry between Cindy and her sister (who often bragged about her children) and the strained relationship between Jim and his father (who was mostly absent during his childhood, but harsh when present). This affected their relationship with each other as well as their parenting. Let's be honest. Many of us have similar issues. Are we willing to do whatever it takes to reconcile? .
  • Own Your Mistakes and Choices, and Learn from Them, but Don't Be Paralyzed by Them
    • Mistakes happen by accident. Choices happen on purpose. Either way, they can hurt our children, our spouses, and our extended families. We should admit within the circle of offense our sinful choices, repent of them, make every effort to do the right thing, and never give up. Parenting is hard. We will probably invent creative new ways to make a mess of things. However, are we willing to keep going at it, trusting God's grace in the process?

 

Biblical References

  • Be Honest
    • Ephesians 4:15 “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (NASB)

    • Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (NASB)
  • Be Loyal to Your Friends and Family
    • Proverbs 3:3 “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart..” (NLT)
  • Be Reconciled to Others
    • Matthew 5:24 “leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. ." (NASB)

    • Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (NASB)
  • Own Your Mistakes and Choices
    • 1 John 1:8-10 “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. “ (NASB)

Discussion Questions

    For Parents:
    1. Have you ever engaged in helicopter parenting? What was the result? How might you have done things differently?
    2. Have you ever argued with each other in front of your children? Put yourself in their shoes. How do you think it made them feel? Have you considered setting up rules of engagement for how you can argue constructively without causing collateral emotional and relational damage in your marriage and family?
    3. As a couple, do you dream together? Or is that a thing of the past? For those to whom this may apply, what about the pain of infertility as in the case of the Green's? What might we learn from how they coped with such a difficult experience? How do you cope with your pain? Individually? As a couple? How do you deal with unresolved conflict with extended family, such as parents or adult siblings, especially if they are insensitive toward your pain?
    For Children:
    1. The Mom and Dad in the film admittedly made a lot of mistakes in trying to parent Timothy. What do you think was their biggest mistake or wrong choice? Why? What would you do differently?
    2. What was the coolest thing about Timothy? What was his biggest mistake? Have you ever made a similar mistake or wrong choice?
    3. Describe one time when you felt odd, either at home, at church or at school. How can we help you when you feel this way?

Conclusion

Timothy Green's life was odd. No doubt about it. But taking away the fantasy elements of the story, are we any different than Timothy or any of the other characters, particularly Joni, Jim, and Cindy? We live odd lives in our own right. We make mistakes and wrong choices, and despite our attempts to appear sophisticated and put together, we prove repeatedly our need for grace, reconciliation, hope, and unconditional love. For this reason I choose to overlook the film's shortcomings and instead concentrate on dealing with my own. Will you join me?


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