‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’ is a science fiction romantic drama directed by Ian Samuels. The film is based on a short story written by Lev Grossman, who also wrote the screenplay. Navigating through a time loop narrative, the film avoids a didactic approach regarding its temporal anomaly. It gives us a blueprint to appreciate the tiny things in our life that we so often tend to ignore. The film differentiates itself from other movies with a similar narrative device as it operates in a unique logic disguised as the story of young romance.
Young teenagers Mark and Margaret are caught in a time loop where they relive a particular day repeatedly. Their meeting gives a window of opportunity to change the static situations. In their quest to understand the cause of the temporal dissonance, Mark and Margaret have to wade through their own issues by learning from each other. ‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’ is a delightfully constructed coming-of-age tale. So, let us unravel the disjunctive threads of this eclectic narrative. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things Plot Synopsis
Mark is caught in a time loop and wakes up every day to the same situations. He is used to the happenings and has memorized the events. Mark is familiar with all the beats, like the words that his dad needs to complete his crossword puzzle and stopping a person on a sidewalk at the exact time when a bird is about to defecate. In essence, he seems to enjoy the time-loop as there is no dread of anticipation.
He visits his friend, Henry, who is engrossed in his video game but fails to cross a particular level. Mark also tries to strike a conversation with his crush, and one of the events of his day involves preventing a beach ball from hitting her. One day, a young girl catches the ball and drives away in a car before Mark can approach her. The girl’s presence is totally unexpected, and Mark tries to follow her, sensing a break in his temporal anomaly.
Mark finally meets her and realizes that she is also experiencing the same time loop. The girl introduces herself as Margaret, and both share their experiences of dealing with their complicated situation. Mark realizes that they are the only ones aware of the anomaly and plans their day to map out the perfect moments to escape the monotony. Gradually, their bond grows stronger, and Mark seems to have fallen for her. Margaret is apprehensive of taking their relationship forward as she has her own little secret that ties to the source of the time loop.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things Ending: Does the Time Loop End?
As Mark and Margaret spend their time together trying to map out the perfect moments of their 16-hour time loop, they get close to each other. Mark wants to exit the loop and enjoy his time in the real world, but Margaret is not prepared to do so. She seems to be content with her situation and avoids developing a relationship with Mark.
Every day, she gets a call from Jared, who later turns out to be her mother’s doctor. Margaret’s mother has cancer and doesn’t have much time in her hand. Margaret wishes for time to stop, which perhaps is the initiation of the time loop. She is content with the repetition as she is not yet ready to lose her mother. In a somber conversation with her mother, Margaret understands that she has to accept the grief and prepare herself for the moments ahead of her.
Revisiting the perfect moments, Margaret seeks a pattern in them. She draws a map of the perfect moments and represents them on a string with beads that correspond to the moments’ particular time. She notices that the strings cast a shadow of a four-dimensional cube with one of the edges missing. Margaret realizes that she needs to create a moment that will complete the map. She unites with Mark, which leads to the final perfect moment and completes the pattern of the cube. Margaret finds a purpose to purge her grief and look forward to the future. She breaks the time loop with a sumptuous kiss that becomes the final piece of the temporal puzzle.
The Singularity of Time
Mark searches for an exit from the time loop by indulging in the mathematics behind his conundrum. He approaches his maths teacher and deduces that he needs to establish a singularity of the time flow, which has been disrupted due to some reasons. He decides to travel to Japan to cross the International Date Line, hoping to re-establish the disoriented time flow. Unfortunately, his attempt does not help his cause. He decides to spend his time with his family and indulge in activities that will help him acknowledge the people around him.
This realization is Mark’s attempt at achieving a singularity in his thought process. However, the loop ends as Margaret completes the four-dimensional cube. We can assume that the singularity involved is a metaphor for the existential crises of the lead characters. Mark learns to appreciate his life as he creates tender moments that help him realize the beauty of life. For Margaret, the four-dimensional cube is a projection of her anxiety that stems from the impending grief entailing from her mother’s eventual death.
More than time, fleeting moments become an important motif in the film. Mark and Margaret have to create moments rather than being observers of the happenings. These moments are like the beads on the flow of time, which is literally visualized in the film. The logic of the time loop unfolds through self-realization that brings Mark and Margaret together. Even the film is also self-aware of this situation as there are constant references to similar narratives like ‘Groundhog Day,’ ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ and Terry Gilliam’s ‘Time Bandits.’
‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’ swerves away from these films’ approach as the time loop is relegated to be a cinematic tool that brings two dissonant souls together. We can perhaps situate the film’s story in Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory,’ which establishes the persistence of time but posits the moments that we tend to relive for self-introspection.