Almost 30 years after Groundhog Day, I’m impressed that filmmakers and storytellers are still able to come up with unique ways to play with the time loop genre. In just the last four years, we’ve gotten two Happy Death Day movies, Palm Springs, and now The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. And this is not even to mention Source Code (2011) or Edge of Tomorrow (2014). I enjoy when filmmakers are able to take a familiar premise and extrapolate something new and insightful from it, and that’s what happens in the new Amazon Prime film, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.
Starring Kathryn Newton as Margaret (best known for Big Little Lies) and Kyle Allen as Mark (from the upcoming Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story), the film jumps right in to its time loop premise. Mark knows he’s in a time loop from the beginning of the movie and it doesn’t waste any time with him trying to figure out how he got there. He spends his days trying different approaches to get one girl to go out with him, but with no success. Since he repeats the same day over and over, he always knows exactly how certain events are going to go. But one day, Margaret comes into the picture and does something different from the norm, which alerts Mark to the fact that she’s stuck in the same loop as him.
The film is self-aware and uses some meta jokes to draw attention to the fun subgenre. Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow are even referenced when Mark tells his friend Henry (Jermaine Harris) about how he is stuck in the same day over and over again. It’s really fun to see that because it gives you the sense that the movie isn’t really taking itself too seriously. It has a serious message that it wants to send, but its tongue-in-cheek presentation allows you not to worry too much about the logic (any implications of the butterfly effect are completely ignored, as usual) while engaging its themes.
This movie’s themes are pretty much summarized in its title. Like every other time loop movie, Mark and Maggie spend most of their time trying to figure out how to get out of the loop. In doing so, they decide to make a map of all the tiny perfect things that they’ve noticed while living the same day over and over again. They’re in the right spot at the right time to see an eagle swoop down over a lake and catch a fish, a van with painted on wings stops in the perfect position to make it appear as if a man sitting on a bench has wings, kids plug in lights at just the right time to brighten the dusk, and so much more.
As Tim from About Time puts it, they start putting aside “all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be” and then start noticing all those little things that can enrich a person’s life. Personally, I always appreciate a movie that points out the little things in life that we’re usually too busy to notice or realize because it speaks to a truth that we don’t often recognize: that through all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we can be prone to forget how special it is to just be alive and in the world.
The movie also explores ideas about time and how it affects the human psyche. There’s an enlightening line about how they’re not actually spending time in the loop because, “Time is the stuff that when you spend it, you never get it back.” It’s a simple yet unique way to look at the concept and the existential worries that come along with living your day-to-day life and a better insight than I was expecting from the film going in.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things isn’t a perfect movie. Its ideas are profound, but aren’t delivered in a way we haven’t experienced before, and the film’s pacing is a little bit inconsistent. But it has a wholesome and uplifting message wrapped in a fun and engaging package, and I think that makes it at least worth a watch.