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MOVIES: The Map of Tiny Perfect Things - Review

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Time loop films are sort of becoming their own subgenre of sci-fi now, and have been for a while. Groundhog Day is the famous one, but then you get films like Edge of Tomorrow, last year’s Palm Springs, and Netflix’s superb miniseries Russian Doll has tackled the format head on. The trick, in order to get them to feel fresh and exciting, seems to be mixing them with a different genre: Edge of Tomorrow was a sci-fi, Palm Springs was a comedy, and in steps The Map of Tiny Perfect Things as a young adult, John Green-esque time-loop drama with plenty of effective emotional beats that bring to mind The Fault in Our Stars, if the main characters were stuck repeating the same day over and over again. Thankfully it isn’t as quite as melodramatic, and the sweet and charming nature of The Map of Tiny Perfect Things goes some way to making it immensely watchable.

One of the main reasons that the film pulls this off successfully is due to the smart writing of Lev Grossman. Fans may recognise his output from the terrific The Magicians trilogy, which was turned into an even-better series on SYFY that wrapped up last year. Both the book and the show were incredibly self-aware and had an element of fun factor to it that The Map of Tiny Perfect Things does a good job at recapturing, whilst there are no musical numbers, it does find a way to address effectively the “rules” of a time-loop and tackle topics like the fourth dimension that you wouldn’t expect this film to go quite into as deeply. Of course, the fact that it quotes Doctor Who and shouts out Edge of Tomorrow quite often goes some way to aiding its appeal, especially as the references feel like part of The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’ charm. Its repetitiveness never quite grows tiresome, especially given the rinse-repeat nature of the genre, and although it is not above its cliches, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things finds a clever way to put them into a box and do something new with them.

Kathryn Newton’s character, for example, initially comes across as a “manic pixie dream girl” type character that has been repeated lazily over and over again but enough depth is given to Margaret that it gives her the emotional focus that she needs to balance out the narrative: much of the first half is focused around Kyle Allen’s Mark going through all the traditional time-loop experiences that you’d expect a character stuck in his situation to be going to, but then once the film allows more time for Margaret to breath, it really comes into its own, and both characters shine because of it.

The emotional depth afforded to both Mark and Margaret puts them in their element, and the clear chemistry that Newton and Allen share makes them instantly likeable. The supporting cast primarily exists to serve their narrative however, and they can’t quite escape the cliches and relatively safe backgrounds that the film places them in, all the tropes are there – which is where Palm Springs manages to one-up it on. But that’s probably the only comparison that I’m going to make between these two movies as they both do an excellent job at standing on their own – accomplishing different things aimed at different audiences. For instance, this film does a good job at getting into the mindset of exploring the anxities of being a teenager and captures the characters in their element pretty well, and it ticks all the boxes of being a coming of age movie effectively.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things has a better second half than a first but the first half exists primarily to make the second half so good. It’s one of the most welcome surprises of the year so far – and if you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet as it’s been on Amazon Prime Video streaming for a week already, go and give it a shot! You will find it is more than ready to surprise you with a heartfelt, reflective experience.

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