Tell me if this doesn’t sound like the plot of a horror film. A married couple (Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner) are unable to have children, so they decide to write down all the qualities they’d want their ideal child to have on separate pieces of paper, then they put the paper in a box and bury it in their backyard. Overnight, a freak lightning storm suddenly materializes over their house, and a strange creature emerges from out of the ground. The creature looks and sounds a lot like a 10-year-old human child, but with one notable exception: He has leaves growing out of his legs. The couple try to have the leaves amputated, but the leaves appear to be immune to gardening equipment. We get to see the leaves up close on several occasions, and they look like something that David Lynch might have included in one of his weirder movies.
You’d be forgiven for thinking, “Okay, I know what happens next. The freaky kid with the leaves growing out of his legs ends up killing everyone.” But strangely, The Odd Life of Timothy Green isn’t a horror movie. Rather, it’s an inspirational drama that lays on the sentimentality as thick as anything by Nicholas Sparks at his most shameless. Instead of sneaking into town and killing off the townsfolk one by one, he helps them with their problems. Each time he helps someone, one of his leaves falls off. When all of his leaves fall off, well…let’s just say that if you cried at the end of The Last Song or The Blind Side, you’ll probably cry at the end of this one too.
Actually, to say that Odd Life isn’t a horror movie might be a bit premature. It is a horror movie, just not the one you’d expect. The child may be a weird supernatural mutant, but he isn’t a monster. It’s the parents—bundles of anxiety and paranoia who, if it were legal, would gladly put the kid in a plastic bubble for the rest of his life—who are the monsters. Worried that people will discover the leaves and that Timothy will become an outcast, their parenting style becomes more and more aggressive until the movie starts to develop a Mommie Dearest vibe. In the end (mild spoiler warning), the couple comes to the realization that they are in fact really bad parents, which causes the final leaf to fall off their son’s leg.
Now that they have the experience of raising a leaf-child under their belts, the couple feel like they’re ready for a real child, and before you know it, adoption services pulls up to their house with an Asian kid in tow. It’s supposed to be an uplifting, everyone-reach-for-a-box-of-Kleenex moment, but it’s actually kind of sinister. You just know that the child will need a lifetime of therapy as a result of this and that she was probably way better off as a ward of the state. If the goal of Odd Life was to eviscerate the lax standards of adoption agencies, well, mission accomplished.
I can honestly say that I have never seen a movie even remotely like The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Most people seem to regard originality as something to be applauded, but in this case, the movie’s originality actually works against it. It turns out that there’s a very good reason why no one until now has made an inspirational tearjerker about raising a magical mutant: Inspirational tearjerkers about raising magical mutants are just flat-out weird and kind of off-putting.