Based on his own short story and written by acclaimed novelist Lev Grossman, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is tailor made for the young adult/teen audience lapping up the modestly scaled features and Netflix-budgeted mini-series aimed at their hungry demographic. As the creative force behind the successful The Magicians series on SYFY channel, he knows a thing or two about fantasy worlds. It also helps that the film is charming and competently invested with a smart performance by Kathryn Newton- previously seen in the raunchy comedy Blockers (2018) and Little Big Lies– and Kyle Allen as two teenagers caught up in the Groundhog Day scenario of living each day over…. and over…. and over.
Wisely avoiding any explanation in the opening scene, Mark (Allen) wanders around town with a clockwork like precision of precognitive abilities. From something as small as having a pair of tongs ready to gently hike down a woman’s dress unknowingly caught on her purse to seeing a skateboarder perform a grand face plant, he’s obviously adapted and made peace with his unusual state of permanent deja-vu.
That is until Margaret (Newton) steps into his presupposed path one day and out maneuvers him on a last second heroic effort, causing him to shift up his daily pattern and find out who this person is. Eventually, we found out Margaret is also caught in this unexplained time warp, and the duo embark on a friendship that not only features the somewhat cliched formula of the awkward teen romance, but has them searching for they key to their very weird predicament.
Exuding sweetness with twinges of deeper personal sadness that creep up towards the end, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is generally inoffensive and makes the most of its updated narrative swipes, making sure to name check every cinematic touchstone from the Bill Murray classic all the way back to my own personal childhood favorite, Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981).
But while the framework of the film is steeped in sci-fi lore, it also manages to include some nice wrinkles into the human fabric. For one, Mark is shocked back into time at eight each morning just as his busy mother unlocks her car with a honk and drives off to an extra shift at work. In a later scene, he tells Margaret how much he misses her because he never sees her throughout his day. It raises the interesting speculation of just how torturous such a scenario would be. And then, the film doubles that heartbreak for Margaret, leaving her hurried run away from Mark at a certain time each day that much more mysterious.
Directed by Ian Samuels, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things balances the human with the metaphysical nicely. Even if it doesn’t quite live up to the stalwart reputation of other films in the genre, it makes one care about the characters and root for their ultimate breakout from a life that’s not stuck on repeat.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things begins streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday February 12th.