The world as a whole is in a real weird place right now, to say the least. Each day brings some bit of news or an event that serves to divide us, anger us, or sadden us. All that we can hope for is that the next day will bring some good news and we will move on collectively into a better life. So what happens if you are forced to live one day over and over, never getting that new tomorrow? That’s the basis of the new film, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, out now on Amazon Prime Video.
While the mechanics of the film’s story — reliving the same day over and over — has been used before in films like the classic Groundhog Day, the sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow, and recently in the absurd Andy Samberg comedy Palm Springs, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things does the audience one better than those films: it leaves us with a profound sense of hope.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things stars Kyle Allen as Mark, a teenager stuck in a time loop with no idea how to get out of it. So, as a willy teenager would, he makes the best of it, reliving the best moments of the day, manipulating scenarios to his benefit, and rather enjoying the fact that he no longer has to argue with his father (Josh Hamilton) about his desire to go to art school over more academic institutions, or make any life decisions about his future. He’s living the slacker’s dream.
That is until Margaret, played by Kathryn Newton (Freaky), suddenly shows up, also stuck in the loop. Mark tries desperately to connect with the girl, and eventually, after many repeating days, they become friends. Mark shares with Margaret what he knows about the anomaly; the day resets every night at midnight, no matter what, and everything happens the same way every day.
The two begin to share with each other the fascinating things they’ve discovered about the day — little perfect things that would otherwise be overlooked by people just living their lives. Together, they create a map of all the perfect things the day offers.
Mark begins to develop feelings for Margaret and hopes that maybe somehow that mapping of the scenarios is the key to ending the loop so they can move their relationship forward. What he doesn’t know is that Margaret doesn’t want the loop to end for reasons known only to her, and that conflict serves as the crux of the narrative.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things throws a few new wrinkles into the story trope, but it never leaves the road it’s on. Playing it safe is part of the film’s charm, as the audience can’t help but both sympathize with and revel in the fun the leads get into. That fun and charm comes to an end with a bold narrative switch in the third act which turns the film on its head and sets up for the satisfying conclusion.
Allen and Newton have solid chemistry on screen, with Mark being the aloof, artsy, all-American teenage boy, and Margaret being the deeper, smarter, more practical teenage girl. The actors bring a certain gravitas to the roles, and the characters come off as very relatable, even as the audience discovers new layers to both leads and the world they live in.
The “young adult” aspects of the film don’t hinder it in any way, as I’m a 47-year-old man who gleefully came along on their ride and cheered their successes and reflected on their failures. I found it very easy to root for them and I walked away from this film with a better understanding of not only the characters, but of myself and the world around me.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things was directed by Ian Samuels and is based off a short story written by the screenwriter, Lev Grossman, the author of The Magicians book series. Aside from all the teen angst, shenanigans, and unrequited love, there is a strong story here of seeking out the little things that we all seem to miss. The script naturally instills hope, not only in the world of Mark and Margaret, but in the real world as well. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish, but the film delivers.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is the kind of film we need right now. It presents a world of wonder and hope, disguised as the monotonous day-to-day existence we all trudge through. While we may feel discouraged or in despair by what we see and hear in the news, that doesn’t mean that somewhere, right now, something magical might be happening, and you are probably missing it. But if you begin to look for those magical moments, life can and will get better. I believe it, and this film fortifies it.
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