Although Groundhog Day is the most notable example, the time loop story is its own genre by this point. There are time loop episodes of Agents of SHIELD, Star Trek, movies like Edge of Tomorrow, the recent (very fantastic) Palm Springs and a whole bunch more. The latest entry in the time loop genre is The Map of Tiny Perfect Things and while two time loopers falling in love is very similar to Palm Springs, it’s sort of a mash-up of Groundhog Day and the young people walk and talk philosophically about life of Before Sunrise. There are bits where this movie seems a bit too enamoured of its concept of finding perfect moments, but it provides some cool twists in the time loop genre and the chemistry of the two leads carries a lot.
Mark (Kyle Allen) is living the same day over and over again and is getting quite good at predicting every little event that happens in his town. Shockingly, he notices a girl, Margaret (Kathryn Newton) changing events like him and realizes she is aware of the time loop. After some initial awkwardness as Margaret indicates she wants to be alone, Mark gets closer to her. Together they realize their repeating slice of reality has small, perfect moments of humanity and they decide to map out every event. Still, Mark is becoming restless in a world that resets every night at midnight and wants out, however every day at 6 PM Margret departs for an unknown purpose and leaving the loop for her could be devastating.
Unlike most time loop movies, this kicks off where the protagonist is in the middle of their loop. Palm Springs did too but there are a few differences; in Palm Springs the love interest is a new addition but in Perfect Things she has been in it for a while. Also Palm Springs used the time loop for a manic, comedic, crazy sci-fi tale while Perfect Things is more of a mellow, chatty, somewhat flighty teen romance film with comedic aside and fantasy elements.
The best bit in Perfect Things is the start when Mark is going about his day and fixing people’s problems as he walks to school in a single unbroken shot. He’s both at ease with his life but literally stuck in a rut. He keeps trying to fix a meeting with a female at a pool but she keeps getting hit with a beach ball until unexpectedly Margaret walks right along and saves the situation while barely looking at them. This is probably the first story to mention other time loop movies like Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow showing this flick is very self-aware about what genre it is playing in.
As much as the story is about the time loop, it focuses in on the two characters getting to know each other. When Mark starts communicating with Margaret, he tries a makeover of a few different hairstyles, some of them pretty extreme with shaved heads and mohawks, and then he asks to meet her “tomorrow” as the time loop will reset his crazy hairstyle. It’s an interesting way to use the time loop plot device in a romantic story structure. There is a lot of wandering set to new wave synth pop which contributes to the dreamy atmosphere. Although sometimes their quest edges towards slightly vapidly navel gazing, however if one was stuck in a time loop it would probably get a bit navel gazing. The central hook of them finding tiny perfect moments is a bit haphazard as they stumble across an eagle grabbing a fish, or a gang of bikers stopping traffic to let a turtle cross the road. Sure, they’re nice moments but a closer look at the map has dopey stuff like “best free Wi-Fi” which doesn’t exactly seem like a life changing experience.
Mark gets to explain the time loop to his buddy, Henry (Jermaine Harris) multiple times while Henry is playing a videogame and keeps dying at the same spot. The various spins on the conversation are funny as Harris makes for a decent exposition buddy who points out the absurdities of the time loop. The bit culminates when Margret shows up at Henry’s house and immediately wins the game that Henry has been stuck on the entire time rather handily. Mark spends time with his dad (Josh Hamilton) and his sister (Cleo Fraser) and he’s perpetually annoyed with them but after a few loops he gains a new appreciation for his family. His mom leaves for work every morning so he never gets to see her which is why he wants to leave. The reason that Margaret departs every day becomes the centrepiece of why the time loop is happening. In a climactic scene, Margaret explains why she’s looping and it’s a very emotional moment that Newton absolutely nails for a dramatically satisfying payoff.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things works as a different take on the time loop genre, incorporating some teenage malaise and romantic melodrama. Sometimes it is a bit too meandering and in love showing “perfect things” which are sometimes unimpressive. But it does have heart which goes a long way to making this loop enjoyable.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
Director: Ian Samuels
Starring: Kathryn Newton, Kyle Allen and Jermaine Harris