When I happened to watch the trailer of “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” a few weeks ago, I could easily discern what I was going to get from it. The movie, which was released on Amazon Prime a few days ago, is basically an adolescent version of “Groundhog Day” (1993) and other similar subsequent films out there, and, unfortunately, it does not exceed my initial expectation that much even though there are some genuine emotional moments coupled with obligatory life lessons for its two young main characters.
At the beginning, Lev Grossman’s screenplay, which is based on the short story of the same name written by him, quickly establishes how life has been virtually going nowhere for a high school kid named Mark (Kyle Allen). For some unknown reason, Mark always finds himself back on his bed in the same morning right before the next day is about to begin, and, as shown from the opening sequence, he has been pretty accustomed to everything around him ranging from his father’s morning greeting to the serial number to win the lottery of the day.
Recently, Mark has been interested in spending time with a girl whom he can save from a rather embarrassing happening at a local swimming pool, though he also knows too well that his efforts will eventually be futile at the end of the day he has lived through countless times. At one point, he manages to win that girl’s heart, but then he soon faces the limit on how much he can go with her before the midnight, and that certainly disappoints him a lot.
Anyway, when Mark tries again on her later, there comes an unexpected change. Somebody else enters the scene to prevent that aforementioned happening and then leaves the scene, and it looks like that person in question is also stuck in the time loop just like Mark. Naturally becoming quite curious about that person, he begins the search, and it does not take much for him to find that person because, well, that person is well aware of his presence for a while.
That person in question is an adolescent girl named Margaret (Kathryn Newton), and Mark is certainly eager to talk with Margaret because, well, there has not been anyone for him to share his ongoing inexplicable plight with. Like Mark, Margaret is quite knowledgeable about what happens here and there in the town throughout the day, and she is willing to show him where and when they can see small but sublime moments to behold and appreciate again and again.
As they make a map reflecting the very title of the movie together, Mark becomes attracted to Margaret, and she seems to appreciate his company – especially when he gives her a little special experience at their high school, which has been conveniently empty due to the ongoing summer semester. When he later attempts to get a little closer to her, she does not seem to mind that at first, but then she puts some distance between herself and Mark, and he is certainly baffled about this.
Meanwhile, Mark becomes more active about finding any possible way to get out of his time loop, and the movie becomes less interesting than before as trying to explain his extraordinary situation too much. After having some intellectual conversation with one of his school teachers, Mark decides to test a possible solution, but, of course, that does not work at all (Is this a spoiler?), and Margaret chooses to walk away from him for a reason she is not so willing to tell.
As Mark belatedly comes to learn of how self-absorbed he has been in front of Margaret as well as his family, the movie takes a left turn while shifting its focus onto Margaret, and that is where the movie comes to gain some gravitas. It is eventually revealed that Margaret has quite a desperate personal fact which may be the origin of what has been happening to her and Mark, and you may come to wish that the movie told the story from her viewpoint instead of Mark’s.
Under Ian Samuels’ competent direction, the two lead performers of the movie ably carry their movie together. Although his character feels flat and bland at times, Kyle Allen is likable enough to hold our attention during the first act of the movie, and he is complemented well by the sensitive acting from Kathryn Newton, who deftly handles several key dramatic moments later in the film including the one where her character has a heartfelt talk with someone very close to her. Whenever these two good young performers interact with each other, their chemistry is palpable on the screen to say the least, and they deserve to be served by a better story in my inconsequential opinion.
The other substantial cast members of the movie are stuck in their underdeveloped supporting roles, though they try to fill their spots as much as they can. As Mark’s two family members, Anna Mikami and Josh Hamilton do more than required by their respective thankless roles, and Jermaine Harris brings some little humor as Mark’s best friend.
In conclusion, “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” is fairly adequate as a product for many young adult audiences out there, but it does not distinguish itself enough compared to its more successful predecessors, and the result is a bit too dissatisfying for me to recommend. In fact, I will not stop you from watching it if you just want to spend your free time, but I would rather recommend “Groundhog Day” or “Palm Springs” (2020) instead.