Director – Ian Samuels, Screenplay – Lev Grossman, Based on the Short Story by Lev Grossman, Producers – Ashley Fox, Akiva Goldsman, Gregory Lessans & Aaron Ryder, Photography – Andrew Wehde, Music – Tom Bromley, Visual Effects – Mels Visual Effects (Supervisor – Emilen Lazaron), Special Effects Supervisor – Bruce Merlin, Production Design – Kara Lindstrom. Production Company – Weed Road/FilmNation Entertainment.
Kyle Allen (Mark), Kathryn Newton (Margaret), Jermaine Harris (Henry), Josh Hamilton (Daniel), Anna Mikami (Phoebe), Cleo Fraser (Emma), Jorja Fox (Greta)
The teenage Mark has been trapped living the same day over and over. He amuses himself by mapping out every detail and happening around the town to the second. While waiting for things that are about to happen, he is startled as these are disrupted as a girl walks through. He follows her and this turns out to be Margaret who is also trapped repeating the same day. A friendship grows between the two of them. Mark introduces her to his map of tiny perfect things – a series of odd, amusing or beautiful things that happen at random around the town and the times he has mapped out for when these occur. Mark develops an attraction to Margaret but she has a secret about the reason she always insists on leaving at 6 pm.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a timeloop film. This was a theme popularised by Groundhog Day (1993), a comedy in which Bill Murray is forced to live the same day over and over. The premise has proven a surprisingly fertile one since with variations appearing in films like Retroactive (1997), Naken (2000), Repeaters (2010), Source Code (2011), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), ARQ (2016), Before I Fall (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), Naked (2017), Palm Springs (2020) and Boss Level (2020), plus two entire tv series with Day Break (2006-7) and Russian Doll (2019- ). (For a more detailed overview see Timeloop Films).
Indeed, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is the fourth variant on the timeloop premise one has seen in the last twelve months, following Boss Level, Palm Springs and Russian Doll. It leaves you wondering just how many creative variations on the theme it would be possible to do. The genre has become so prolific that the characters here can make direct comparison to Groundhog Day and to characters gaining new lives in videogames – the two most obvious sources of inspiration for the timeloop genre.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things shares many of aspects in common with these other films. Both Palm Springs and Russian Doll did the variation of having two people trapped in the timeloop, while Palm Springs had earlier featured a romantic connection between the two people caught in a timeloop. The lack of surprise is that there is nothing particularly innovative about The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, the surprise is that it nevertheless does them well anyway.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things conducts all of the familiar with charm. The scenes where Kyle Allen gets up in the morning, his walk through the streets to school, picking things up, catching rides, even bringing a pair of tongs to unobtrusively help a lady whose skirt is caught up comes with an assured sense of timing and opens the film with an appealing buoyance.
The relationship has considerable charms, especially from Kathryn Newton. The writing is at times nicely done, even comes with the addition of various philosophical musings. It is often a film of, as the title states, moments of directorial beauty – where Kyle Allen stages a mock-up of the Moon Landing for Kathryn Newton to play out her dream of being an astronaut, and of course the tour they go on of the tiny perfect moments of the day – a celebration of what is in effect the random and unseen, the sort of things that might be caught in a still moment by a photograph.
Unlike several of the other abovementioned films, there is no explanation offered as to why they are in the timeloop except perhaps Kathryn Newton saying she wished that her mother’s last moments would last forever. Even so, there is no explanation offered as to why Kyle Allen – who is the film’s point-of-view character despite Kathryn Newton getting top-billing – is trapped there as well.
The only point the film falls down for me is near the end where Kathryn Newton creates a three-dimensional mobile map of the tiny perfect things and then comes to the conclusion that there is a pattern in all of these that points to a missing piece. The idea that random events that have been selected by a duo of people because of their beauty or quirkiness can have a pattern that is predetermined is an absurd one. It is something on the order of people seeing the face of Jesus in a piece of toast or the people in Room 237: Being an Inquiry Into The Shining in 9 Parts (2012) finding hidden meanings in the placement of soup cans and the carpet patterns in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980).
The film is written by Lev Grossman based on his own short story published as a novella in 2021. Grossman is a former journalist turned fiction writer best known for the Young Adult The Magicians books later made into the tv series The Magicians (2015-20). Director Ian Samuels is a relative newcomer who had previously made the teen film Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018).
The film is produced Akiva Goldsman and his Weed Road production company. Akiva Goldsman has also written the scripts for the Joel Schumacher Batman films Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997), the big-screen remake of tv’s Lost in Space (1998), the witchcraft comedy Practical Magic (1998), the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001), I, Robot (2004), The Da Vinci Code (2006), I Am Legend (2007), Angels & Demons (2009), Insurgent (2015), The 5th Wave (2016), The Dark Tower (2017), Rings (2017) and Transformers: The Last Knight (2017). He made his directorial debut with the fantasy Winter’s Tale (2014), followed by the horror film Stephanie (2017). Goldsman has also produced Renny Harlin’s two genre outings the monster movie Deep Blue Sea (1999) and the serial killer thriller Mindhunters (2004), as well as the comic-book adaptation Constantine (2005), the paranormal investigators tv series Fringe (2008-13), the superhero film Hancock (2008), the supernatural Western comic-book adaptation Jonah Hex (2010), Paranormal Activity 2 (2010), Paranormal Activity 3 (2011), Paranormal Activity 4 (2012), the tv mini-series adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (2015), Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), Doctor Sleep (2019) and the tv series’ Star Trek: Discovery (2017– ), Titans (2018– ) and Star Trek: Picard (2020– ).