REVIEW: ‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’ Is a Young Adult Time-Loop

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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

Oh, time-loops. A time-tested plot point that was made iconic by Ground Hog Day, made into series form in Russian Doll, and made our best-of list in 2020 with its execution in Palm Springs. That said, because we’ve seen it in so many different variants, a time-loop is a tall order for any film to pull off, especially one with a young cast. That’s just what The Map of Tiny Perfect Things tries to do and does it to varying effect.

Directed by Ian Samuels and written by Lev Grossman , the film is an adaptation of a short story also written by Grossman. It stars Kathryn Newton, Kyle Allen, Jermaine Harris, Anna Mikami, Josh Hamilton, and Cleo Fraser. In The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, we see the story of quick-witted teen Mark, contentedly living the same day in an endless loop. He knows the lottery numbers, when books will fall off a shelf, and every other small, inconsequential thing. His day is filled with small mundane elements that he doesn’t look to intervene in but instead resigns to let happen—like letting his friend lose at a video game repeatedly. Unlike other time-loop stories, this film isn’t about becoming aware you’re in a time-loop. Instead, it’s about what happens when you’re fine with it and what can push you to move forward finally and into the future.

Mark’s world is turned upside-down when he meets mysterious Margaret, who is also stuck in the time loop. In true manic pixie fashion, Mark and Margaret form a magnetic partnership, setting out to find all the tiny things that make that one day perfect. What starts as bonding over being stuck in the same situation evolves into a romance with a fantastical twist. As the only two people aware of the loop, they both have their own reasons for remaining in the day. Whether it’s apathy or the need to keep tomorrow and the possible grim news it may bring at bay, both characters have reasons that cause them to struggle with finding out how to escape the never-ending day. Or, in one case, deciding whether they should at all.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things hits all the young adult adaptation notes. From color-pallette to the quick and witty dialogue that manages to balance Gen Z notes with deep-cut references to old films that show you just how much “depth” the characters have, all of this film is exactly what you would expect. There isn’t anything that this film does new in many ways; I mean, even the main characters look like the same characters we see cast in these types of movies since John Green got his first screen deal. But now that that complaint is out of the way, it has to be noted that while the film takes a while to build up its main point, when it gets there in the film’s last act, it hits.

Now, it’s not that I dislike the young adult screen adaptations that have become their own genre of messy drama. It’s because they’re a dime a dozen. That means that this film has to do the work to stand out from the crowd. Plus, it also has to stand out against the endless stream of time-loop plotted media. And to be honest, if it weren’t for the film’s ending, it would fall into the void of “meh” movies. But with its conclusion, you see a conversation about grief, healing, and the need not to let fear stop you.

While The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is about appreciating the little things in life that we often overlook, it’s a stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of film. But it’s also one that tells the viewer that eventually, you have to walk away from those flowers. As someone who has had multiple deaths in my family since lockdown started, I’ve learned how easy it is to hide from your grief. When you can only watch a funeral on a live stream, it’s easy to pretend like it isn’t real. When you’re stuck in your home, it ultimately feels like you’re in your own loop. The days feel the same, and so long as you ignore your grief, it isn’t real, right?

Wrong, of course. And that running away is what this film addresses. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things deals with the fear we have about change, how that fear of impending grief can immobilize you, and why we need to push past it. Expressing this point without spoilers is hard, but what I can say is that once this film finds its footing in what it wants to confront, it lands. While I wish that this larger theme had been woven throughout the film, it’s powerful enough in the ending to make this a good watch.

Overall, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is good. It hits the feels when it needs to, and both leads are endearing and have a chemistry that just works. Sometimes you don’t need to rebuild the time-loop to have a good time, and this film shows that.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things premieres on Amazon Prime on February 12, 2021.

 The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Overall, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is good. It hits the feels when it needs to, and both leads are endearing and have a chemistry that just works. Sometimes you don’t need to rebuild the time-loop to have a good time, and this film shows that.