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"THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS"
(2021) (Kyle Allen, Kathryn Newton) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: A teen finds his perpetually repeating day interrupted by another teen who's also stuck in the same time loop.
PLOT:

Mark (KYLE ALLEN) is a 17-year-old high school student who seems to know everything his sister, Emma (CLEO FRASER), and their dad, Daniel (JOSH HAMILTON), are going to do and say, which also holds true for everyone and everything else in his town. And that's because he's somehow been trapped in a time loop where the same day keeps repeating over and over again. He tries explaining that to his best friend, Henry (JERMAINE HARRIS), but must do so every day as everything ends up reset at midnight.

But then one day fellow teen Margaret (KATHRYN NEWTON) shows up in Mark's loop. She's initially aloof but then confides that like him she's stuck in that loop. They strike up a common-experience friendship and decide to make note of the tiny perfect things that happen in that same day that they had previously overlooked. Mark -- who'd like to figure out a way out of the loop -- finds himself falling for Margaret, but she only wants to remain friends, and is in no hurry for the loop to be broken. As Mark tries to figure out why, their relationship evolves as they keep repeating the same twenty-four hours over and over again.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

I know a lot of people enjoy both the overall comedy plot and individual funny elements and moments of "Ferris Buller's Day Off," but what struck me most upon first seeing it way back when, and then with subsequent viewings, are the moments of profundity.

Sure, there's the obvious bit where Ferris states "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." But there's also the sequence in the Art Institute in Chicago that's more subtly profound while also being beautiful and touching and emotionally affecting.

And its signature touch is the step-by-step, jump-cut edits closer and deeper into Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" that demonstrated, at least to yours truly, that it's the tiny perfect things that make the greater whole work.

I have no idea if any of that served as the inspiration for novelist Lev Grossman in writing the short story "The Map of Tiny Perfect Things" or the subsequent screenplay adaptation of that work.

But it certainly came to mind while watching this offering from director Ian Samuels that, natch, proves that point while also managing to escape the familiarity of the main plot and segue into its own satisfying standalone entry in the ever more present time loop subgenre story.

Unfortunately coming on the heels of last year's "Palm Springs" that also featured two characters realizing they're stuck in such a 24-hour loop -- rather than the lone one in offerings such as "Edge of Tomorrow," "Happy Death Day," and, of course, "Groundhog Day," the film begins in nearly the same fashion.

While the setting and character types are different, we similarly see our protagonist, Mark (Kyle Allen), get up and breeze through and interact with others in the morning like he's Mr. Cool who somehow knows when and what's going to happen down to the second. To anyone who saw Andy Sandberg do something quite similar in the aforementioned movie, the answer is quite obvious -- Mark has found himself stuck in such a loop living the same day over and over again to the point that he knows everything that's going to happen and be said.

But the predictability and monotony of that is broken when a new face suddenly shows up, crosses his path, and then skedaddles away, seemingly not wanting to interact with him. He eventually tracks her down and it turns out Margaret (Kathryn Newton) is likewise stuck in the same loop.

But unlike him, she's seemingly okay to live out this day indefinitely. That perplexes him although he figures some person named Jared, who she rushes off to meet each evening, likely is involved and eventually might be the reason she just wants to remain friends with Mark while he wants and longs for something more.

They do become friends and she agrees to his plan to note the "tiny perfect things" that happen around them that they've otherwise somehow failed to notice. And that turns into a map that Mark hopes might somehow lead to a way out of the loop.

Like "FBDO," the thematic element at play here is both to spot and appreciate those small, otherwise seemingly insignificant things we routinely overlook and to not sleepwalk through life, even for a single (or repeated) day. The ending -- which I won't give away -- carries additional resonance along with an emotionally moving touch which helps the film stand apart in this increasingly crowded time loop category.

That, and the chemistry between Newton and Allen being spot on makes "The Map of Tiny Perfect Things" escape the repetitive familiarity and sort of become its own tiny perfect thing. I liked it quite a bit and despite losing a point or two for the no longer novel high concept idea, the film still rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed February 9, 2021 / Posted February 12, 2021


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