The Atlanta skyline, the Cherokee Arts Center auditorium in Canton, a pencil factory in Monroe and a garden in Decatur are among the recognizable sites from the Peach State.
Hedges is an Academy Award-nominated director and writer. Past projects include “About a Boy” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” He said producer Ahmet Zappa approached him with the idea of a couple unable to have children who instead write down the attributes of their dream child, bury them in a box and have a boy with leaves appear in the house.
“I always write about family and parenting. It’s the only thing I’m interested in from a story-telling standpoint,” Hedges said. “The magical element felt so liberating. Ahmet had imagined something I could have never thought up.”
In “The Odd Life,” Jim (Edgerton) and Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner) want to have children but are unable to conceive. What starts as frustration turns into imagination as the couple writes down what attributes they want their child to have such as a game-winning athlete, a sense of humor reminiscent of a favorite relative, and a loving attitude. They bury the box in the garden and go to bed. It storms that night.
Timothy (C.J. Adams), a young boy who is naked and covered in mud, appears in the Greens’ home. What seems like a miracle turns into a mystery as they discover leaves growing from Timothy’s legs. However, as the boy changes their lives and others around them, the leaves become an afterthought.
When it comes to film projects, Hedges said he looks for stories that will irrevocably change him and if the story is useful.
“The stories I like are the ones that linger. When the movie is over, or you’ve finished the novel, you’re not thinking about what you saw, but you’re thinking about your own life,” he said.
Hedges said his desire is for people to relate to the film, and “The Odd Life” is one that will resonate with many.
“There are lots of people who would do anything to have children but for some reason can’t. Then there are other people who seem to be able to have children just by sneezing practically,” he said. “There is good fortune and not.”
When the 10-year-old Timothy sprouts into the Greens’ lives, Hedges said the couple gets a crash course in parenting. Cindy and Jim are trying to differentiate between what they want as parents.
“Cindy felt odd as a kid. She felt like an outcast. She is determined that no one will make fun of her kid because it hurts her so much. That was her wound,” Hedges said. “Jim’s [wound] is that his father wasn’t there for him and he so wanted his father’s approval, so he was going to overcorrect his wound and try to heal it through his child.”
Hedges said there is no such thing as a perfect parent. As the father of two, he said children have the ability to teach their parents, but “that doesn’t mean we don’t have to perform our role as parents.”
Although Australian-born actor Edgerton doesn’t have children, he speaks fondly of his parents, especially his father. He said the film taught him about their relationship.
“I looked at them like they knew everything. Basically, they were heroes,” he said. “I didn’t realize until much later in my life that [my dad] didn’t know what he was doing. They were just a couple of kids in their 20s with a couple of sons just working it out. My parents never had the answers. They just kind of bluffed their way through being parents and did a very good job of it. The movie reflected that for me.”
Edgerton admits although he has a “nice, balanced” relationship with his father that he still fosters a need to impress him. He said that’s part of what drives him as an actor.
“It will never stop until I’m dead,” he said. “I hate I’m saying this out loud, but if he’s gone before I go, then I wonder if it will ever stop then — that I’ll still be trying to impress him from the grave.”
Time is a theme in the film, and Hedges said he wants the movie to remind the audience that it is limited.
“You only get parents for so long. But the parents need to be reminded you only get the kids for so long,” he said. “In anything in your life that you have limited time, you appreciated it more. You’re more present for it. You don’t take it for granted.”
When Hedges was a child, he had a paper route — and the lead in the school play. On the morning of a blizzard, Hedges’ father — in an effort to prevent sickness — bundled him up, along with his siblings, and they completed the route for him.
“That was the happiest moment of my life, apart from moments with my kids,” Hedges said through teary eyes. “The movies I love — ‘E.T.,’ ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ — movies like that remind you that you can be ordinary and still have extraordinary moments and feel extraordinary things. That’s the job of art — to remind us what’s possible.
“Hopefully if we did our jobs right, the movie helps you see yourself.”