Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language
Profanity:Brief mild language
Nudity/Sex:Some boy-girl moments
Alcohol/Drugs:Some social drinking
Violence/Scariness:Some sad losses and references to loss of parents
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:August 20, 2012
DVD Release Date:December 3, 2012

I have one copy to give away to the first person who sends me an email at with “Timothy” in the subject line!  Don’t forget your address!

One of the biggest surprises — and greatest pleasures — of being a parent is learning how different your child is from the one you dreamed of, and finding out that the reality is so much better than you could have imagined.  That is the theme of the endearing fable, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.”  Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) meet with an official from an adoption agency to explain why they are fit parents, and it turns out to be the story of Timothy, who came to be their son after they had given up.

“You couldn’t have tried harder or done more,” they are told as the movie begins.  All of their time, money, and energy has been focused on trying to become pregnant, but nothing has worked and they are devastated.  They decide to mourn their loss by writing down a list of qualities and talents they would have wanted in a child.  Honesty, of course.  Musical and artistic talent would be good and he should have a good sense of humor.  He does not have to be a star athlete, but it would be nice if just once he made the winning goal.  They bury the list in the garden and prepare to move on.

But then, he is there, a 10 year old boy covered with dirt.  He says his name is Timothy (CJ Adams).   He calls them by the words they had hungered for: “Mom” and “Dad.”  And he has leaves growing out of his legs, leaves that can’t be snipped off, even with gardening shears. They decide not to question it, just to enroll him in school and be a family.  They agree that it puts him under too much pressure to say, “Have a great day!” before school, so Jim just says encouragingly, “Have the day that you have.”

Jim works in the town’s struggling pencil factory.  Cindy works for the pencil company’s imperious owner (Dianne Weist) at the local museum devoted to the company’s founder.   As they cope with problems at work and with their extended families (an ailing relative, a competitive sibling, a distant and judgmental father), Timothy inspires many people because he seems to understand and appreciate the world around him.  He forms a friendship with an artistic older girl.  And he manages to fit every item on the buried list, but in his own way.

As someone once said, “I used to have four theories about children.  Now I have four children and no theories.”  And as someone else once said, “Adults don’t make children.  Children make adults.”  The great gift of parenthood is the way it makes you jettison so many assumptions — about who you are and who your children are.  When you meet your children, you begin to meet yourself as well.  This whimsical, bittersweet tale is one of the summer’s nicest surprises.

Parents should know that this film deals with infertility issues, sad losses and references to death of parents, bullies, and includes some brief schoolyard language.

Family discussion:  Where do you think Timothy came from?  What would have been different if he turned out the way Jim and Cindy expected?  How did they learn to be better parents?

If you like this, try: “The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao”


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mike

    Nell, good rating and age range for what is appropriate. I couldn’t believe parents were bringing their 3-6 year olds to this, this movie is quite emotional and 90% of it will go way over their heads, including the jokes.

    The movie is out today (August 15th) though, not August 20th.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Mike!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Brian T.

    Why did you give this wonderful movie a B? My family and I saw this and my wife, 12 year old daughter and I loved it. I hope that this movie makes lots and lots of money so that Hollywood would make more family filsm and not some of the dribble that pollutes our multiplexes.

    • Nell Minow

      Brian, I am thrilled that you and your family loved the movie. I hope it makes a lot of money, too. I gave it a B because I thought the script was a little uneven, but I did like the movie and am a big fan of the writer/director.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Brian T.


    Thanks for letting me know the reasoning behind your B. We saw it the 2nd showing on its opening day and it was packed. Thanks again for always steering us parents to the right movies for our kids. My daughter and I are seeing ParaNorman tomorrow. Can’t wait!!!

  • Jacob Ezekiel

    How Long Can People LIVE?

    Why can researchers find no physiological reason why we die? And why does the human brain have such tremendous capacity? Is it possible that we were designed to keep on taking in knowledge forever? Why are we able to conceive of everlasting life at all?

    The Bible states: “Even time indefinite [God] has put in their heart, that mankind may never find out the work that the true God has made from the start to the finish.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) These words indicate that God implanted in us the idea of living forever. For that matter, we would always have something to learn about God and his works. If we lived for untold billions of years—yes, forever—we would always be able to learn more about the marvels of God’s creative works.

    • Nell Minow

      Thank you, Jacob. I like the allegorical aspect of this film and the theme of loss and renewal.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment David

    Hi Nell,
    This must be the 30th time I’ve consulted your reviews before deciding on a movie for my kids (and for myself too!), and it’s well past time to say…. Thank you! It’s been really, really useful for us and our children. I appreciate your sensitivity, thoroughness, and welcoming/kind attitude.

    • Nell Minow

      David, you made my day! I do this as a labor of love and feedback like yours makes it all worthwhile. All best to you and your family.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Toby Clark

    I admit I haven’t seen this from start to finish, but from what I saw in Doug Walker’s review on That Guy With the Glasses, I’m honestly a little shocked by your support for it. Jim and Cindy didn’t come across as good or even potentially good parents to me, not least when, given the opportunity to promise to try and learn from their mistakes, instead talk about making better mistakes.

    • Nell Minow

      I quite liked the idea of “making better mistakes,” Toby. Learning from their mistakes was exactly what that means. What they learned from the experience was that they had to jettison their expectations of a child and of themselves and start from scratch in learning who the child is and how best to parent him or her.

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