VOD film review: The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
Ivan Radford | On 13, Feb 2021
Director: Ian Samuels
Cast: Kyle Allen, Jermaine Harris, Kathryn Newton
Watch The Map of Tiny Perfect Things online in the UK: Amazon Prime
From Palm Springs and Edge of Tomorrow to Source Code and ARQ, the legacy of Groundhog Day lives on over and over in countless time loop movies that span genres from comedy to sci-fi. But one of the most persistent is perhaps the humble romantic comedy, with Netflix proving a particular regurgitator of the boy-meets-girl-then-meets-them-again formula in such films as Naked to When We First Met. Now, Amazon’s entering the fray with The Map of Tiny Perfect Things – but this retread of familiar territory comes with an unexpected twist: what if more than one person was stuck in the same chrono-limbo?
Written by Lev Grossman (of The Magicians fame), and based on his own short story, the film follows Mark (Kyle Allen), a teenager who is living the same day on repeat. From the off, the script is savvy enough to try something new: rather than him getting used to his repetitive existence, we meet him as he’s already well at home in the 24-hour cycle, helping people avoid mishaps and pretending to control garden sprinklers with a playful energy. But that gradually tiring routine is disrupted when he spots someone else doing the same thing – Margaret (Kathryn Newton), who is also stuck in the same loop.
What ensues is a broadly recognisable boy-tries-to-engineer-a-meet-cute scenario, but one that gives Margaret added agency – both literally and emotionally. While Mark is our door into this closed-off corner of the universe, there’s far more to explore than his own philosophical ennui and schoolboy crush. They start to record all the perfect things that happen in their town, compiling a map of everything from skateboarding pratfalls to a tortoise crossing a road safely and an eagle catching a fish.
That puts them two steps ahead of the usual learn-to-appreciate life lesson that a typical time loop comedy teaches. Instead, there’s something echoing About Time in its surprisingly serious streak, and the resulting journey refreshingly puts Mark closer to manic pixie dream boy than vice versa. The Path’s Kyle Allen brings an eager, endearing longing for connection to his fringe-sporting protagonist, while Big Little Lies’ Kathryn Newton is heart-breaking and entertaining in her initially aloof loner, and the film’s charm lies in seeing their chemistry grow, rather than be rebuilt from scratch every day.
This allows them both to explore the pros and cons of their new normal together, and it’s their acceptance of letting go things rather than their determination to break free that brings a genuine emotional catharsis to the time-looping hijinks. Filmed by director Ian Samuels with a sun-dappled earnestness, it’s a teen movie as much as it is a time travel movie, and dares to be earnest rather than meta. The result is prone to twee dialogue, but it’s a gently sweet tale of growing up without ageing that effortlessly charms. Is it perfect? No, but whether it’s Mark becoming less selfish or Margaret trying to return a lost dog, there are many tiny things here to admire and appreciate.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.