The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a charming romance story that arrives grounded in the form of yet another time loop film.
Time loop films aren’t new but the trick for filmmakers is to make them different from the rest. Groundhog Day is the golden standard when it comes to the romantic comedy stuck within a time loop. Most recently, there’s Palm Springs starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. The former is over 25 years old and a cinematic classic. The latter, however, only came out last year. What this means is that The Map of Tiny Perfect Things has to bring something new to the genre. Otherwise, it becomes another film lost to the algorithm in this ever-changing world of streaming providers.
Mark (Kyle Allen) is stuck in a time loop. We don’t know how many days it’s been when the film starts. What we do know is that it’s long enough to have things down to the second. In some ways, he’s like Superman. He is there at the moment you need him. With the day on an endless repeat, Mark no longer cares about school and whatnot. He constantly plays video games with best friend Henry (Jermaine Harris). Once midnight hits, he wakes up in his bed only to watch his mom leave for work through the window. Anyway, the pool is a regular stop during his day in order to prevent a girl from being hit with a beachball. One day, Margaret (Kathryn Newton) stops the beach ball dead in its tracks. This is the beginning of the film’s love story.
To no surprise, the film also falls within the typical beats of the romantic comedy genre. You know you’re going to see a happy ending. The question is how do we get there. Like any rom-com film, it’s no surprise to see the Mark and Margaret break up. But at the same time, they are both key to breaking this never-ending time loop. With days never ending, they track down every perfect moment in their town. I’m not going to say much about the specific moments. I will say that this is something fresh for the genre. You never really see the perfect moments in other time loop films. Things are no different than Groundhog Day because Mark realizes he needs to start caring about others. This is necessary in order to break the loop.
Lev Grossman’s screenplay leaves some mystery as the days continually repeat. Where does Margaret keep going at 6 PM when she gets a phone call? Kathryn Newton is the first-billed cast member but the film mostly focuses on Kyle Allen’s point of view. The film is shot in Fairhope, Alabama but the only hint of any on-screen location is Margaret’s 859 cell phone number. For what it’s worth, it’s quite possible that her family no longer lives in Kentucky.
We’ve seen numerous rom-coms about teenagers. What we haven’t seen before is a teenage rom-com stuck in a time loop. The film plays to the same beats but it is still fresh enough to offer something new. Plus, you can’t go wrong with having Kathryn Newton among the leading roles.
Kathryn Newton and Kyle Allen’s performances are solid enough to keep us entertained while watching The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.
DIRECTOR: Ian Samuels
SCREENWRITER: Lev Grossman
CAST: Kathryn Newton, Kyle Allen, Al Madrigal, Jermaine Harris, Anna Mikami, Josh Hamilton, Cleo Fraser, Jorja Fox