Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton co-star as happily married Cindy and Jim Green, who have given up the hope of having children after numerous fertility treatments fail to yield results. After an evening spent mourning the loss of their planned future and imagining what their dream child would have been like, the duo bury their wishes in the garden and awake hours later to find 10-year-old Timothy (CJ Adams) – naked and covered in mud – happily waiting for them in the nursery they’d built.
Timothy, it seems, has been sent from some magical realm (heaven?) to be their son, and Cindy and Jim couldn’t be more thrilled about their new addition. Thing is, Timothy also has small leaves growing out of his ankles – something his protective parents want to keep hidden from the world, lest their boy be mocked… or worse. Soon, Timothy is making himself at home, falling for the “weird girl” (Odeya Rush) at school and, with his eternally optimistic attitude and can-do approach to life, working his way into the hearts of everyone he encounters (including supporting players like Common, Dianne Wiest and Lois Smith). It’s only when the first of his leaves turns brown and drops off that it becomes clear there’s more to this story than just a nice kid born in the cabbage patch.
Directed by Peter Hedges, whose previous films have likewise deftly tread the line between family-centric comedy and drama, Timothy Green manages to be both cute and sad, sweet and poignant. A guide to effective parenting on the surface, the story has deeper layers and addresses bigger pictures – not the least of which is the value and importance in embracing and celebrating (not condemning or fearing) those things that make us unique. The entire movie is a beautiful metaphor for everything from the coming-out process to the plight of bullied children, and it had me in tears on multiple occasions. And, perhaps best of all, it will be palatable to a younger audience.
Both Garner and Edgerton are fabulous – warm, loving and blessed with that increasingly rare quality in onscreen couplings: chemistry. Every tiny gesture, every hand gently placed on a knee, is perfect and, even better, believable. Likewise, young CJ Adams brings a genuine sense of delight and wonder to his performance. He’s not “showbizzy” or cutesy or precious – his Timothy is just a good kid who tries his best and loves without limits. And supporting players like Rosemarie DeWitt and Ron Livingston (playing the antithesis of his Office Space alter ego) add nice touches to the proceedings.
Though the film is stuck with a mid-August release, when movie-going fatigue has set in for many, its feel-good vibe and wholesome, fantastical storytelling make it a worthwhile outing for the whole family.