MOVIE REVIEW: THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS feels like we’ve been there before.


Director Ian Samuels and writer Lev Grossman give us another spin on the Groundhog Day formula; this time focusing on a pair of teens on the cusp of adulthood focused on a future that may never come.

In the past few years, filmmakers have heavily been mining at the classic 1993 Harold Ramis comedy Groundhog Day as a touchstone for missed opportunities in love and life. It’s at the point now where Groundhog Day is a film genre in and of itself with all the spins made on its premise. From the action movie Groundhog Day riff in Edge of Tomorrow to the horror movie spin on Groundhog Day in Happy Death Day, as well as a similar sinister spin in the CBS All Access Twilight Zone revival series. 2020 brought us a fun and romantic sci-fi take on the genre that sort of brought it full-circle with NEON’s Palm Springs. It’s Palm Springs’ looming shadow that sort of dwells over The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, which debuts on Amazon on February 12th. That’s not to say The Map of Tiny Perfect Things doesn’t have anything new to say, but a lot of the beats in the film are the same ones in Palm Springs and make it hard for The Map of Tiny Perfect Things to sort of stalk some unique claims on the premise.

Our guide through this space/time singularity is 17 year old Mark (Kyle Allen), a surprisingly sensitive teen whose drive is to go to art school even as events in his home life make that very unlikely. Mark has been caught in the time loop long enough to largely memorize the minutiae of most of the town; even timing saving a girl from falling in a pool down to the second to try and spark a conversation. He confides in his friend Henry (Jermaine Harris) about his day to day life, even though Henry forgets as the day resets and has somewhat resigned himself to being stuck in this purgatory forever. That is, until one day he notices Margaret (Freaky’s Kathryn Newton) break the minutiae he has memorized and realizes the two are stuck in the loop together. Mark confronts Margaret and she nonchalantly confirms she’s stuck in the same loop. The two strike up a friendship as they can at least share the unenviable position of being the alone people “awake” in their reality. But Margaret makes a point to leave at 6 on the nose every day and Mark knows he’s keeping something from her, even as the two of them grow closer and closer, she still keeps him at arm’s length.

Already, you can kind of see that Samuels’ film hits some of the same beats as Palm Springs, although they do go in different directions within that framework. But Samuels’ film has more of an indie teen film sensibility which makes it unique. Samuels directed Netflix’s Sierra Burgess is a Loser and this has some of that same lovelorn and earnest aesthetic to it. While we follow Mark as his journey as the protagonist, letting the scenes breathe brings us in and shows us how he grows after knowing Margaret and tries to see the world outside of himself and the bubble he’s built around himself as the only person that matters. His relationship with Margaret starts to change that, as his relationship with her starts to alter her perspective. She has her own journey we bear witness too and the structure Samuels’ film builds to demonstrate this is very clever and well-executed. However, the issue the film struggles with somewhat is wrapping the premise up so the two can move forward. The solution they come up with works and we get an endearing ending, but inevitably it’ll draw the comparison to Palm Springs given the proximity in their release. But Allen and Newton’s performances, as well as the film’s production design and soundtrack do give the film kind of a unique feel, less Palm Springs and more Swiss Army Man in terms of the two living marooned in their own world.

In the end, while The Map of Tiny Perfect Things feels a lot like movies we’ve seen before, the performances are worth seeking out, even if other films have hit these beats in familiar ways. Ultimately, we all know what’s going to happen, it’s the journey that makes it interesting and there’s enough good stuff here to start that journey that it’s worth taking, even if it feels familiar.