“Well, it’s Groundhog Day… Again”. I mean, not literally but it’s close. Yet another movie that attempts the formula of reliving the same day over and over again. It seems this once unique albeit odd concept has become quite the new fad in the filmmaking world. A few years ago we had Tom Cruise’s action thriller Edge of Tomorrow, then more recently the comedy/horror Happy Death Day and its sequel, and even last year Andy Samberg’s Palm Springs had a go at the sub-genre as well. This year Amazon Prime introduces us to the next title to join that list with their teen romance drama, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.
Kicking things off with high school senior Mark (Kyle Allen), who starts the day just like any other. In his case quite literally, as he wakes to the same day as it was yesterday…but it’s today. Where he effortlessly frolics around his house in perfect rhythm with little time ques that he encounters every morning, whilst finishing off the sentences, or simultaneously quoting the very words that are being spoken from his father and sister. Then on his way into school, stops by the clueless townsfolk that he knows are about to get into their little disasters or misfortunes on their daily duties.
This opening scene already paints the picture that this has been going on for sometime, I’d even estimate years. He knows his family’s morning routine to every detail and even memorized every encounter on his school commute. It immediately asks the question how can this kid be in such a good mood if there is no escape from this endless routine?
On top of it, he believed he was living this obsolete lifestyle alone. That is until one key moment that he encounters daily, is interrupted by Margaret (Kathryn Newton). This hadn’t happened before, and so immediately becomes suspicious of this unfamiliar girl in this very familiar setting. After managing to track her down, they both quickly realise they’re no longer living this ‘temporal anomaly’ alone.
See the difference is Mark has remained optimistic throughout all of this. He seizes the day, each day, despite knowing he’s going to be met with the same scenarios tomorrow. Despite this, he still wants out of this day and has been looking for a solution to finally ending it. Margaret on the other hand, ambles through the motions of her day to day, less entranced by the wonders this opportunity grants them. Even initially being unfazed by this shared experience and seems keen on carrying on alone. But we soon find out later that unlike Mark, she doesn’t want this day to end.
Much like Groundhog Day, this all takes place in a quaint little American town. The sort of place that you could find enough entertainment to fill years at a push, but a lifetime spent in this town would send even the most optimistic of people into crippling depression. But where the title comes into place, and what our two trapped souls learn to appreciate, are all the perfect little moments that they encounter throughout their day. They even begin to believe these sweet moments of clarity to be the key out of this never ending day.
From early on you can tell The Map of Tiny Perfect Things wears its influences on its sleeve. It’s not even subtle about it. It hits many of the classic tropes that have since been tied to the sub-genre throughout the years, but it has a likeness to it. An overload of cheesiness but with a certain charm that predominantly stems from the captivating chemistry of its leading stars.
Its attempts to explain this anomaly and how to get out of it doesn’t exactly work for me. It seems more bogus than the actual time loop concept itself, and spins off into some scientific territory that does little more than just set its final moments into motion. But the fact it was willing to attempt something original is commendable at the very least. It also has a welcoming twist that sees a reversal of character importance and dives a little into why this occurred in the first place.
If you’re willing to bury all preconceptions regarding this young adult targeted drama, then you might find yourself being thoroughly surprised like I was. The acting is great for the sort of movie it is, and the earnest chemistry really sells you on the journey this film takes you on. The eye for this film is in the little details. The moments the film makes you appreciate the little steps that go a long way to making it memorable.
It’s not without its problems though. It does enough to distance itself from other movies in the time loop category on a narrative scale, but there is still a lot that feels far too familiar. The ending doesn’t completely land for me as well as I’d hoped and it has its fair share of eye rolling moments throughout. But I’m all for being surprised and proven wrong, which director Ian Samuels has managed to do here, and has given me the biggest surprise hit so far this year.