Some movie formulas are so much fun you can’t help but want to put yourselves in the character’s shoes.
If it were a body switch comedy (or any genre), you wonder, “Who would I want to switch bodies with?”. If it were a fish out of water plot, where would you as the (hypothetical) fish wish to be? And, if you were stuck in the same day on a constant loop (most notably done in the classic film Groundhog Day), what would you do?
One of the essential aspects of The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is that it knows it has been doused with the Groundhog Day schtick. It does not take long for the viewer to notice that when the movie opens on Mark (Kyle Allen, who reminded me of a young Joseph Gordon Levitt), a teenager in his hometown during the summer. He wakes up at the same time, when his mom is leaving for work (she works the full day, so he has not seen her since the cycle has begun). He has gotten used to knowing every little thing: a dish is about to fall, a man is about to get bird poop on him (a cameo by the film’s director), a girl is about to fall into a pool, etc. He says he noticed it when he realized “there is no more Doctor Who.” (Note: Any movie that references Doctor Who will get bonus points from me.) His repeated schedule is thrown a curveball when he meets Margaret (Kathryn Newton).
He asks her point blank:
“Are you experiencing any temporal anomaly in your life?”
Like any set of teenagers, they are pretty “chill” when they started this repetition and are now taking it in stride. They eventually spend their days (so to speak) with each other, although Margaret always has to leave him at the same time every day, no matter what.
We learn the titular map is made by Mark of many of the smaller moments we would normally miss in our every day lives, from kids lighting up a house to a hawk diving for a fish. Even the most simple minded of viewers would know that these two will eventually fall for one another. Of course, it is more about us witnessing their characters grow into realizing their feelings for one another that is more satisfying.
It’s impossible to talk about a romance film of any kind without addressing the amount of chemistry the two leads possess. Thankfully, both actors (who I admit did not know when watching the film were in their twenties) have it. Both have been in films before, and while this is not a film that either might consider a “break out”, it still is a solid brick in each of their roads to stardom.
Parents, the film is a solid PG-13. There is kissing and some sexual references, and some casual teenage swearing (one F bomb), but nothing more. There is also some drama with Margaret’s life that I won’t spoil. I would say middle school and above.
Romances with me are very hit or miss. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any that would fall in the middle. There are some that I watched, secretly hoping they would be good and moving to me. Then, as the credits rolled, I would shake my head in disappointment. Some of the more recent ones include Five Feet Apart (2019), Yesterday (2019), Me Before You (2016), and 2018’s The Kissing Booth (to be fair, I had very little faith in that last one).
Then there are the ones that do work and make us reminisce those feelings of young love. These are films like Clouds and Stargirl, two movies from 2020 that are still rather underrated and can still be viewed on Disney Plus. There is also To All the Boys I loved before (2018) and the criminally underseen Sing Street (2016).
You can add The Map of Tiny Perfect Things to this latter category.