“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things”
Photo | FilmNation Entertainment
Mobile and Fairhope play a starring role once again in the teen time travel love story “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.” Two young people, Mark and Margaret, discover they are both having the same highly unusual problem — they are living the same day over and over again — and try to work together to figure out how to make time start up again. Once they start sharing this time loop, they begin to question if they really want to move ahead at all.
Just about one year ago, we were starting to hear rumors about a little bug called COVID, and we couldn’t drive past the Dew Drop Inn because they were shooting a movie there. Both the bug and the movie are here now. The production was halted by COVID at the very end; some crew members caught it, in one of the earliest local instances of people catching COVID that we heard about.
That cycle just makes seeing our familiar locations all the more surreal. Margaret and Mark, played by Kathryn Newton (“Big Little Lies”) and Kyle Allen (“American Horror Story”) meet and hang out in the Dew Drop Inn, with Nixon’s and Innova Arts prominently displayed in the background. They drive an excavator through downtown Mobile, and you can clearly see one of our most important cultural landmarks: the beautiful sign atop Lagniappe World Headquarters, the Mobile equivalent of the Hollywood sign.
Downtown Fairhope and its public library also play a big role, especially in the elaborately choreographed opening scene, where we witness Mark riding his bike and performing a series of intricately timed actions made possible by the fact he has at that point experienced the same morning about 1,000 times. Downtown Fairhope is such a big presence in the film that, reviewing it on rogerebert.com, critic Roxana Hadadi referred to it as being “set in one of those cutely small American towns where the main strip is full of quaint shops and everything is blandly satisfying.”
While Fairhope might not choose to add “blandly satisfying” to their marketing materials, this phrase does describe “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” as a film, which ends up looking like “Groundhog Day” if emo, YA author John Green had written it. When the heroes figure out what is causing their time loop, it is actually satisfying, and it makes everything up to that point look slightly bland. There is plenty of cute stuff in the movie, but it might not have actually mattered in the end.
“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” itself is a list of stop-and-smell-the-roses kinds of experiences the pair collect throughout their repeated day, small delightful moments they come to appreciate. This is a charming device that lends the film its requisite quirk. While the characters openly reference “Groundhog Day” when describing their dilemma, I was more interested Mark namechecks Terry Gilliam’s 1981 “Time Bandits,” which is currently on HBO Max if you, like Margaret, have missed this gloriously bizarre film that also concerns time travel.
Like most science fiction films, the logic of this one falls apart if you think about it for too long, but it is a refreshing young adult story in that the heroes’ potential romance is not the only thing happening. As characters, they are allowed independent growth and development.
“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” is worth watching just to play spot the location, and to recognize the involvement of so many local people, from costumers to photographers to extras and everyone in between — even producer Scott Lumpkin. I think it’s so exciting Mobile and Fairhope, with their undeniable character, architecture and natural outdoors features, are being used as film locations, and I hope it brings more opportunities for so many people. Even though it has teen protagonists, optimists and dreamers of any age will enjoy “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” a lighthearted lark into an alternate universe that is also entirely recognizable, particularly around here.
“A Map of Tiny Perfect Things” is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Another local film of interest is a documentary called “How Many Chances” by Mobilian Creighton Hobbs. In intimate and natural detail, Hobbs and his friends and family discuss the shocking number of ways he has essentially cheated death since the day he was born. In telling his own story, the writer and documentary filmmaker brings his exciting and uplifting experiences to life in a uniquely personal way. He really speaks to the viewer in these incredible anecdotes, which are literally life-affirming.
“How Many Chances” is streaming on Amazon Prime.
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