Added to the list of recent movies about adventures in time-looping is the latest from director Ian Samuels (Sierra Burgess Is a Loser) and writer Lev Grossman (based on his novella, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things), which follows in the fine tradition of Palm Springs, Tomorrow Never Dies, the two Happy Death Day movies, and the original of the genre, Groundhog Day. Probably the lightest-weight of the bunch, Tiny Perfect Things centers on the story of a slightly dim/sometimes wise high schooler named Mark (Kyle Allen), who has been reliving the same, non-distinct day for who knows how long. He zips through town, knowing exactly what’s going to happen, stopping strangers from getting hurt by random dangers and noticing a few choice events that he perceives as perfect moments. His primary objective is to meet a young woman he sees at the pool every day, but each attempt has landed in his failure to make a lasting impression.
Then one day, out of nowhere, a person crosses his path who has never been there before—Margaret (Kathryn Newton, most recently seen in Freaky)—and he becomes fixated on meeting her, even though she is clearly trying not to be noticed. It turns out that, for reasons that are never really explained, they are the only two in their town caught in a time loop, and to further complicate the situation, she must always leave him long before the midnight deadline that resets the day for them both. The two actors have great chemistry, even when they are meant to be at odds for a great deal of their time together. In a welcome change, she initially resists the idea that just because they are the only two people going through this automatically means they have to pair up (they do eventually, but Mark actually has to earn it).
It turns out that Margaret also has noticed a handful of weirdly perfect moments in her time before meeting Mark, and eventually he plots all of these events on a map of the town, which turns into a clue that might lead them out of this loop. Putting another twist on the situation, Margaret has reasons for not wanting to leave this day (basically because she knows that the next day will be traumatic for her and her family), so her enthusiasm for finishing this map is muted. The film is a little light on the philosophical ramifications of living the same day over and over, but it does emphasize the idea that we should take notice of the small miracles that pop up in front of us every day, and I have no issue with such a simple, positive message.
There are some fun moments with recurring, supporting cast members, including Mark’s father (Josh Hamilton, who played the dad in Eighth Grade), his teacher Mr. Pepper (Al Madrigal), and his video game-playing best friend Henry (Jermaine Harris). We don’t see Margaret in interactions with many people since her life is a bit of mystery, but when she does finally meet Henry, it leads to one of the funniest scenes in the movie. You’ll likely view The Map of Tiny Perfect Things as low stakes, young adult frivolity, but its primary goal isn’t jokes; it’s more about the people and moments in our lives in which we place value. It’s more of a message than I was expecting from this work, but it’s certainly welcome in a culture that seems focused on the most shallow things. You could do a lot worse this weekend.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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