DVD Review: ‘Odd’ fantasy explores challenges of parenting

By Craig Detweiler, Special Contributor…


The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language

You may have missed The Odd Life of Timothy Green. It slipped into theaters at the end of the summer just as we were heading back to school. A lovely autumn movie filled with golden leaves and burnished tones, it arrives on DVD as that rare film that works for parents and kids, giving all of us a deeper appreciation of the gift and challenge of family.

It is also a compelling portrait of adoption, how waiting and longing can turn into redemption for all.

A mysterious 10-year-old boy (CJ Adams) changes the lives of people around him in The Odd Life of Timothy Green, newly released to DVD and Blu-ray. PHOTO COURTESY WALT DISNEY PICTURES

The story begins with a heartache experienced by plenty of couples: confronting the painful reality of infertility. Yet, Jim and Cindy Green hold onto their dreams for one more night. They list all the attributes the child they long for would embody.

Disney magic follows, and yet director Peter Hedges restrains the fantasy elements. CJ Adams is quite convincing as the boy who springs from their garden with leaves on his ankles to prove it.

Timothy may be wide-eyed, but he seems less innocent and more knowing than his adoptive parents. As the Greens, Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner explore buried aspects of their characters that the child brings to the surface. The Greens believe they’ll be satisfied with a child who knows what it means to love and be loved. Yet, when their dreams become real, the challenges of parenting surprise them.

For parents, talks about the opposite sex and dating can be more awkward than we might imagine. We take defeats in soccer far more seriously than we anticipated. And despite our best efforts to create a perfect childhood environment, life intervenes in the form of bullies.

Timothy’s ups and downs play out against the backdrop of a factory closing. Jim works at the Stanleyville Pencil Factory. Cindy gives tours at the ancestral home of the Crudstaff family, proprietors of the factory. Efforts to preserve the endangered jobs making pencils follow a predictable route. The town hall meeting feels straight out of a Frank Capra movie, circa 1934.

At a time when most films attempt to be bigger, louder and faster than their competition, it is somewhat comforting to encounter an earnest, feel-good fable. In a world of naughty, nice can be a relief.

Yet, The Odd Life of Timothy Green doesn’t shy away from death, disappointment and dreams deferred. It is framed by the Greens making a case for why they’d make great parents. For adults in the audience who are wrestling with adoption, the film demonstrates how welcoming a child transforms us. The potential for pain is eclipsed by the gift of life.

Dr. Detweiler is a filmmaker who directs the Center for Entertainment, Media & Culture and the masters program in media production at Pepperdine University.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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