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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


CJ Adams and Odeya Rush star in "The Odd Life of Timothy Green."
The first thing to understand about "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" (Disney) is that, despite its genuinely wholesome approach, its themes of infertility and death make it unsuitable for younger children.

The film strains not to offend. But even older children may find parts of this fable—in which the enchanted 10-year-old boy of the title (CJ Adams) passes through life leading others by cheerfulness and good example—somewhat puzzling.

Let's put it this way: This film has "Discuss it with your child afterward" written into nearly every scene. There's nothing contrary to, or derogatory of, Christian faith. But there's a mishmash of imagery, since the original story by Ahmet Zappa draws on both Christian and wiccan beliefs—a little too heavily on the wiccan, it must be said, for the comfort of many viewers of faith.

However, there's no indoctrination going on. There's just a lot to think about. And, on the upside, from start to finish, the story celebrates familial love.

Opening scenes show Jim and Cindy Green (Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner) at an adoption agency explaining why they're qualified to become parents. To do so, they first have to explain what has just happened to them, which is where Timothy Green comes in.

Deeply saddened to learn they were infertile, the Greens wrote down all of their ideas about what the perfect child ought to be: Honest to a fault, able to love and be loved, possessing a lively sense of humor, and so on. They then buried the notes in a wooden box in their backyard garden.

That night, there was a heavy rainstorm, and the next morning, the couple discovered a precocious, dirt-covered naked boy, freshly sprung from their garden, exploring their house.

He's just what they hoped to have, except that he has what looks like vine leaves on his shins. (This is the wiccan imagery.) These leaves cannot be cut off.

No problem there: They simply advise him to keep his socks on at all times. And they begin the process of becoming involved and dedicated parents.

Timothy is extremely kind, very patient, very much an outsider among other children and endures suffering in a Christ-like way (thus the Christian analogy).

He is smitten with Joni Jerome (Odeya Rush), a slightly older girl who also feels like an outsider because of a large birthmark. Together, they construct a sort of chapel in the woods with "stained glass" made from colorful autumn leaves (This is the mixed aspect).

It's not a spoiler to disclose that, with the arrival of autumn, Timothy finds that his leaves are deciduous, and knows his time is drawing short. Yet it's made clear that his life has had a purpose.

Writer-director Peter Hedges has a little trouble keeping his sentimental tale on an even keel. The uplifting, break-out-the-hankies ending, though, is likely to appeal to anyone who enjoys a good cry.

The film contains mature themes, some pagan overtones and a single scatological reference. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Jeanne Jugan: 
		<p>Born in northern France during the French Revolution—a time when congregations of women and men religious were being suppressed by the national government, Jeanne would eventually be highly praised in the French academy for her community's compassionate care of elderly poor people.</p>
		<p>When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children (four died young) alone. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes (August 19).</p>
		<p>After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor and taught catechism to children. After her friend's death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran. In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members and more guests. Mother Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association—the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853 the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England.</p>
		<p>Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne's reelection as superior in 1843; nine year later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. He was removed from office by the Holy See in 1890. </p>
		<p>By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community's constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on August 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009. </p>
		<p> </p>
American Catholic Blog The people who know God well—the hermits, the prayerful people, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found to be an abusive father or a manipulative mother, but a lover who is more than we dared hope for.

 
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