The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
- Emma Simmonds
- 8 February 2021
Kathryn Newton and Kyle Allen have a ball in an extremely enjoyable teenage spin on Groundhog Day
This terrific teenage take on Groundhog Day, adapted by Lev Grossman from his own short story, makes no bones about its inspiration, namechecking the 1993 comedy classic from the outset. It has every reason to be unashamed, rising high above a simple rehash through an abundance of youthful charm and plenty of its own bright ideas.
Ian Samuels (Sierra Burgess Is a Loser) directs Kathryn Newton and Kyle Allen in this effervescent, high concept rom-com which sees two 17-year-olds trapped in a temporal anomaly, living the same day over and over, and having to figure things out together. Allen's puppyish Mark is trying, and failing, to win over another girl when Margaret (Newton) breezes through and grabs his attention. If this very clever girl is seemingly far too cool for him – and her sometimes stormy temperament suggests she's got more going on in her life than she's letting on – they are, of course, united in their predicament, and over time they become friends.
There are emotional crises in the offing but, for a while, the film goes at the central idea with such an infectious sense of fun it's wonderful. The way the pair waltz about town anticipating everything, leaving bewildered parties gawping in their wake is a hoot and, while the concept of finding all the tiny perfect things that happen in one day sounds horribly twee, it's far less cloyingly executed than you might imagine.
There's nice support from Josh Hamilton as Mark's dad, Al Madrigal as a withering maths teacher and Jermaine Harris as Mark's gamer buddy, but they don't get much of a look in. That's fair enough given the conceit – everyone else is just going through their predictable motions – and luckily the leads are great value for money. Newton has already shown her acting potential in such notable fare as Blockers and Big Little Lies (she's also co-lead in the upcoming Freaky) and she's very good here. But this is star-is-born stuff from the lesser-known Allen, who brings a winning combination of studly and gawky to the role of Mark. Sweet but not sickeningly sentimental, and funny, bouncy and surreal to boot, this is spot-on stuff for a Valentine's night in.
Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from Fri 12 Feb.