Anita Casey-Reed
 
 
    
 
This film image released by Disney shows, from left, Jennifer Garner, CJ Adams, and Joel Edgerton in a scene from "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." (Associated Press)
 
 

 
This film image released by Disney shows, from left, Cameron "CJ" Adams, Jennifer Garner, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Joel Edgerton in a scene from "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." (Associated Press)
 
 

I know during my era B.C. (before children), I would have been a perfect parent -- patient, kind, never harried, always understanding, giving the best advice -- to my perfect child. Then, I actually became a parent. Eleven years in, there are still times I will admit I have no idea what I am doing but am positive I am screwing up my kids for life.

That's the lesson learned in a hurry by Jim and Cindy Green (played by Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner) in the 2012 Disney release "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." This film, about as family-friendly and uncynical as it gets in the 21st century, tells the tale of how the childless Greens decide to find closure on their unsuccessful attempts to start a family by making a description of their perfect child and burying it in their back garden. One magical thunderstorm later, they find the mud-covered Timothy (CJ Adams) in their home, referring to them as "Mom and Dad."

Written and directed by Peter Hedges, "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" uses a bit of magical realism (not only does Timothy arrive as a full-grown elementary school-aged boy from the soil, he has several leaves growing out of his calves) to explore what it means to become a parent, how children can often bring out who an adult really is, and how having a child can force a person to change the relationships within his or her own family. Some of the most interesting parts of the film involve Jim's determination to stick up for his son in a way he felt his father never did for him and Cindy's irritation with her sister's constant competitive boasting about her own brood, because it really highlights how a lot of times (and I'm certainly guilty of this myself) an interaction between a parent and a child is more about the parent's baggage than anything else.

Be forewarned -- you will most likely figure out a large chunk of the ending near the start of the film, thanks to a framing device that has Jim and Cindy telling their story in flashback. Be forewarned again -- your emotions will be shamelessly manipulated at the end, so have Kleenex ready.

Thanks to its message -- that how a family starts is not important and that the love of children and parents outweighs the inevitable mistakes they both may make -- "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is a rare recent live-action movie that actually deals with family issues in a way where the whole family can actually see it together.



 
Anita Casey-Reed is a member of the Cinema 100 Film Society, a volunteer for the Dakota Digital Film Festival and co-host of "Reel Retro" on Dakota Media Access. She lives in Bismarck with her husband and two children.