The Odd Life of Timothy Green

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on August 15, 2012

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Dear Chris Hunter
Storyboard Artist

Dear Chris,

I bet you were inspired to storyboard this whole film with just a good ol' fashioned pencil. First of all for narrative congruity, since the classic wood and lead scribbler plays a central role in the film. But more importantly because this Disney production is determined to take us back to the basics of storytelling. Despite all the technological tools at your team's disposal, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is an intimate story, drawn with a light touch and a lot of care.

And an unhealthy obsession with pencils.

You first rough out the picture of a one-horse American town, where Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) works on the assembly line of the town's pencil factory, while his wife Cindy (Jennifer Garner) curates the pencil museum. The two aspiring parents, unable to conceive a child, decide to pencil-in their imaginary offspring's qualities (ex: "He's a Picasso with a pencil!") and bury them in a back yard memorial box. Then comes a mysterious storm, a magical child with leaves on his legs, and, eventually, a major problem that will be solved with a homemade pencil. On paper, this kind of quirk would read as heavy-handed in even a Tim Burton or Guy Maddin film, but here it's all played out with an impressively straight face.

Peter Hedge's direction works hard to shade these fantastical elements with a lot of humanity - or at least the slightly cartoonish Disney version thereof. CJ Adams is impossibly positive, calm and sweet as the titular Timothy Green, but that's okay. He's not meant to be as fun or far-reaching as Forrest Gump, yet his curious existence proves to be a lot more meaningful than someone like Benjamin Button's. We understand that almost explicitly from an early scene at an adoption agency that sets up a character reference interview as the film's key storytelling device.

The sequence of events derived from your illustrations bring us a lot of simple joys and expected pleasures. And by framing the action mostly at eye level, we can also feel like we're temporarily a part of the Green family. We feel equally awkward watching Timothy's penchant for Christ-like poses and embrace the embarrassment of the family's Little Miss Sunshine _concert _moment. We might not be blinded by love like an actual family member, but we can accept these moments for what they are.

Unfortunately, some of the peripheral plot details remain a bit sketchy; and yes Garner is basically tracing her performance from Juno. The final picture might not be a stoke of genius, but the restraint from making The Odd Life of Timothy Green too colourful goes a long way.

Your pencil pal,


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