The Map of Tiny Perfect Things movie review: Kathryn Newton's dreary romantic saga is a maze of frustrating boredom

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things could have been much more, but the lazy screenplay pulls it down into a frustrating ennui.

Shreya Paul February 13, 2021 15:49:47 IST

2.5/5

Scientific temporal anomalies have always made for great cinema with impassioned auteurs like Christopher Nolan and Harold Ramis creating art through their masterpieces. Ian Samuels’ The Map of Tiny Perfect Things sits comfortably in the Groundhog Day genre, belting out yet another pop-culture-infused romance fest, clocking in just under two hours of screentime.

Kathryn Newton and Kyle Allen play Margaret and Mark, two kindred souls “stuck” in a time loop, living the 24 hours on monotonous repeat. Lev Grossman, whose short anthology the film is based on, infuses ample breezy moments into an otherwise heavy concept of a screenplay, wherein the film feels like a cozy series of pop music cues. The (carefully) curated carefree setting acts as a catalyst to the gooey romantic epicenter.

When Mark identifies Margaret as his compatriot, he is elated to spend days having shared experiences. Newton’s Margaret, on the other hand, though affable, keeps a portion of herself guarded, steadfast to avoid any breaches into her fortress of a mind.

While the duo explores life and the new meaning it throws at them, the film slowly transforms into a Frankenstein’s monster. Even though Samuels and his team work hard to avoid any forceful didacticism, the lead pair’s “revelations” feel unnecessarily similar to a drowsy moral science session on a Monday morning.

Both Mark and Margaret ruminate on the future, the beauty of nothingness, the importance of love, and the inevitable nature of irreversible time. But beyond their sincere attempts at acting, Newton and Allen hardly make for a convincing couple who are trying to navigate the series of unexpected events they face.

The irony of two teenagers being “not so angsty” is not lost on the audience throughout the runtime, and in parts, it is rather refreshing to see how Mark and Margaret do not feel the need to channelise their negative energies all the time. However, the film cannot seem to avert an unintentional detour into a tired circle as the two try and resolve their individual crises.

The romantic will-they-won’t-they also loses its charm after the first hour, and Margaret’s reticence feels contrived.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things movie review Kathryn Newtons dreary romantic saga is a maze of frustrating boredom

Kyle Allen and Kathryn Newton in a still from The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. Image from Twitter

Despite its predictable graph, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (to its credit) does remain honest to its no-drama policy. The days feel lived-in, the characters seem believable in their desperation to break out of mounting boredom. The cinematography (Andrew Wehde) functions as the fulcrum to aid the film into a visual spectacle.

One of the most glaring flaws is the choice of the narrative voice. Most of the occurrings take place through Mark’s lens. Even though he is definitely sprightlier of the two, it brushes Margaret to the sidelines. Conversely, had Margaret’s story been the helming factor, the film may have been much more layered, considering her character was steeped in grey tones compared to Mark’s happy-go-lucky cutesy charm.

In fact, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things could have completely avoided the romantic mystique altogether. Placing Mark and Margaret at the two ends of the can-be-soulmates see-saw, Samuels takes a rather drab and safe bet. The two characters had enough differences to make them perfect strangers to each other, or maybe budding friends. But the entire paraphernalia behind Mark’s whiney neediness for Margaret’s approval and her insistence on being mysterious, throws off the cinematic balance.

To this end, Mark’s brief-but-hilarious exchanges with his best friend Henry (Jermaine Harris) bring in more flare and romp to an otherwise dull atmosphere. The two buddies are snarky, frank, and unapologetically authentic in their no-holds-barred attitude towards the other.

Newton, who has had a recent burst of luck in her filmography and has aptly risen to the occasion to portray beautifully chaotic roles, disappoints with this dreary feature. Much like her character in the film, Newton merely exists in the frame, just an intelligent reflection board for Mark’s wayward thoughts. Allen does a fair job of the goofy Mark, but the characters are so poorly sketched, it hardly gives him breathing space to experiment.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things could have been much more, but the lazy screenplay pulls it down into a frustrating ennui.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Rating: **1/2

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