Here comes another romantic comedy —fluent enough at incorporating time-loop without getting tangled in the familiarity. It’s fluent enough not to beat the dead horse and give away any exposition about the temporal anomaly’s nature. It’s fluent enough to give the time-loop a purpose in the narrative greater than a mere gimmick. It’s fluent enough to make the titular Map of Tiny Perfect Thing a worthwhile journey.
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Without spending much exposition up front, screenwriter Lev Grossman (adapting his writings) gets audiences right into the action. Director Ian Samuels (Sierra Burgess Is a Loser) picks it up and immediately stages a neatly choreographed opening that sets up the mood for The Map of Tiny Perfect Thing. There goes the protagonist, 17 y.o. Mark (Kyle Allen), retreading one of his favorite morning routes like he’s strolling it down hundreds of times. Here’s the thing: without explicitly giving it away, the opening sequence hints at an unmissable time-loop occurrence effortlessly. Then, without lollygagging, this young-adult story will unravel how the time-loop is a perfect device to navigate Mark’s teen angst and his fear about the coming of adulthood.
Mark finds out that living the same day over and over again isn’t as tedious as it sounds. His “actual” life is, as he perceives, way more boring. His mother succumbs into work a tad too much; his father doesn’t share the same views about his future inclination towards art —illustration, to be precise; his sister buries herself in endless extracurricular activities; and, his BFF spends too much time with his video games. His only companion is his illustrious vision and his photographic memory that help him traversing the day that never changes. Yet, orders are about to turn into chaos when Mark encounters a girl whose action isn’t scripted; in other words, he meets another person who is aware of the time-loop. Her name is Margaret (Kathryn Newton) and their life-changing romance is about to begin.
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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is enticing when it’s about Mark and Margaret walking through the different same days and discussing things about their lives and their perspective about the world. Margaret will soon find out about Mark’s penchant for art; on the other hand, Mark will learn of Margaret’s fascination with space and the laws of physics. This will lead to the film’s romantic spectacle when Mark takes Margaret on a “space odyssey” and when Margaret finds out about the titular map. The amount of plot in this teen rom-com can be utterly overwhelming with each of the protagonists sorting out their personal struggles (revealed sympathetically in the third act). At times, the narrative stumbles in balancing the portion between highlighting the romance and the personal growth; however, when both elements coalesce in the end, the uneven storytelling seems a little forgivable. Allen and Newton‘s effervescent chemistry helps to find distract attention away from the narrative disproportion.
Samuels‘ directorial growth makes The Map of Tiny Perfect Things an uplifting adventure whose charm isn’t lessening even when the plot can be predictable. He makes an entertaining time-loop story that doesn’t depend on live-sleep-wake cycles to convey the message. Instead, his direction focuses on the exploration of routines which he arranges with precision and inventive choreography to tell the stories. It’s a bold creative decision that overrides the predictability with flair. With the narrative formula that strikes high comparisons with Palm Springs —even though both are inventive, fresh, and stylish in their own ways, it’s interesting to make a double bill of these two heartwarming time-loop romance comedy.