Iteration 3: The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

Today is March 371st 2020, and day 355 of my personal lockdown. I’m watching time-loop movies today, and my third is The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (currently free on Prime). And it turns out to be exactly the film I need right now.

The film comes close to being twee, but it worked for me. It starts with Mark, who has been in a time loop for ages. He loves repeating the same day, and has got it down to a fine art. The opening sequence, showing Mark’s morning routine, is awesome. He’s making a map of all the tiny perfect moments in his town on that day. And then he discovers that someone else, Margaret, is also in the loop with him. Spoilers follow

There are so many things this connects to. There are nods to Groundhog Day, and to Edge of Tomorrow. The theme of not wanting to grow up reminds me of Peter Pan – I love that Mark is content to spend his whole life within the anomaly – even if it means he cannot do anything that takes more than 16 hours.


  • Length of first iteration: 9 minutes
  • Reset point: midnight on the day
  • Fidelity of loop: Perfect, apart from interactions between Mark and Margaret

Mark and Margaret wonder why they are the only two people who are repeating the day. They consider themselves as having free will in comparison to the other people. At one point Margaret compares everyone to sleepers; and her and Mark to lucid dreamers. That idea that there might be lucid waking fascinates me.

This is a gentle film. I love how Mark visits the same friend each day, watching him play videogames. Life is not really about the collection of little perfect moments. But it’s great to watch a film where that is something worth looking for.

At one point they use the phrase “Time is Broken”. I’ve used that in connection with the pandemic a lot. My sense of how long ago things happened is shattered. The days pass slowly, while months pass by. Still, today a shopkeeper was telling me about how he and his wife have been vaccinated; and it felt good to hear of more and more people being protected and maybe this won’t last forever. Maybe there will be a time when I’m not sat at home watching three films one after the other.

Iteration 2 – Happy Death Day

Today is March 371st 2020, and day 355 of my personal lockdown. I’m watching time-loop movies today, and my second is Happy Death Day. Spoilers follow. This was a fun slasher movie that uses the Groundhog Day structure to avoid the Final Girl cliche.


  • Length of first iteration: 13 minutes
  • Length of second iteration: 15.5 minutes
  • Reset point: death
  • Fidelity of loop: Some internal trauma is carried over to future iterations
  • Exit from the loop: survival

This film was obviously not trying to be Groundhog Day (which it made a nod to at the end), but it was slick. It started well, with the Universal ident at the start looping. The script was funny, with awful characters saying awful things (Tree confesses to spitting on an Uber driver). The mystery element worked pretty well too.

It didn’t do anything novel with the time loop idea, although I liked that the main character, Tree, found an ally. There wasn’t enough of the growth through the iterations, and she didn’t take advantage of the situation – understandable, given that she was facing a murderer. Good slasher film though.

Iteration 1: Groundhog Day

Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
Ralph: That about sums it up for me.

Today is March 371st 2020, and day 355 of my personal lockdown. I’m watching movies today, and the first was Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day has been described as the perfect lockdown movie, since every day is the same. That comparison only holds so far. While Phil Connors lives the same day again and again, there are distinct events in the day and his life is slowly changing within the repetition. And, you know, the film is based around a large social event with no distancing.

Over the last twenty-odd years since I first saw it, I’ve thought about Groundhog Day a lot, but rarely re-watched it (the film turned up most recently in an episode of Imaginary Advice). There are a lot of details I’d forgotten, including that the film has two car chases.

Spoilers follow for a 28-year old movie.


  • Length of first iteration: 11 minutes
  • Length of second iteration: 7 minutes
  • Reset point: sleep or death
  • Fidelity of loop: Day repeats with little degradation
  • Exit from the loop: spending the night with the main female character / becoming a better person

The film is from 1993, and parts have dated in 28 years. Phil’s hostility and workplace sexual harassment doesn’t come off as a quirky character traits now. I also wondered what happened to make him so invested in his own misery. Fortunately, given the way Netflix and Amazon are reusing old intellectual property, the Groundhog Day prequel TV show can’t be far off.

There’s also something a little unbalanced in Phil’s relationship with Rita, played by Andie MacDowell. The film focusses on their relationship and not the other things that Murray does with his repeated day (one DVD commentary says that Phil spends ten thousand years in Punxsutawney, usual estimates are about 20-40 years, although we only see 37 days in the film). Does Phil know this is the aim of the loop, or has he just tried everything else he can think of? Also, it’s a good thing Phil was not stuck in the loop until the movie passed the Bechdel test or it would still be going on.

Rita is treated as a prize to be won in the film, with Phil as the ultimate stalker. While the movie ultimately has Phil becoming a good person, the movie uses the trope of men deceiving women into falling in love, with the female character having little agency. In one iteration, Rita is horrified to realise “This whole day has been one long set up”, but the film is lamp-shading that issue rather than dealing with it. There’s definitely something a little uneasy about the film from her point of view (which someone has compiled on Vimeo)

When he emerges from the cycle, Phil remembers what he has been through. But how does Rita deal with him after that point, when he does not have years to set-up a perfect day? Will he ever tell her what happened? Will he stay a better person?

And surely Phil’s experiences within the loop have left him scarred in some way. There are some touching scenes where Phil’s mental health collapses, as he tries to deal with his situation. It’s painful to see the scenes where Phil breaks down and begs Rita for help. There is a shocking sequence where Phil repeatedly kills himself, which is (thankfully) played lightly.

A detail that puzzled me was the piano teacher. There’s a section fo the film where Phil decides to learn piano. He goes to a piano teacher and pays her $1,000 dollars to kick out her current student and teach him instead. It’s a scene played for laughs, but you wonder how many people’s lives are touched by Phil’s strange behaviour in this one day where the world revolves around him. Some of them will be left with very odd anecdotes.

Phil continues learning piano until he is an expert –

(This raises the question of how Phil manages to learn within the loop when his brain is being reset at the start of each cycle. I guess this is probably the sort of nit-picking metaphysics best cut in favour of jokes).

(At one point, Rita says she has deja-vu in one of the loops – does this mean there was a chance of her learning what has been happening?)

Anyway, Phil continues learning piano until he is an expert, returning to the piano teacher each day, presumably paying her $1,000 dollars for each step of tuition until he is a jazz virtuoso. On the final day, when Phil uses his piano skills to help him ‘win’ Rita, the tutor turns to Rita and proudly says “That’s my student.” How does she know? On that final day, he was an expert who came for a quick top-up lesson – or else, she is the only person in the film to remember previous cycles.

Another weird diversion is when Phil, on camera, describes the Groundhog Day ceremony as the town “worshipping a rat”. I hope we one day all get to watch a folk-horror version of Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day is a well-made film whose flaws have become more obvious over time. But it was fun to watch again, and I did like the film’s message. Phil only ‘won’ Rita when he built a community in the town, and she saw how much they loved him.

February Monthnotes

February was a bleak month but, as it drew to a close, I was feeling hopeful. The government’s plans for returning to normality gave me something to look forward to. At the same time, my house sale is ticking over in the background, with the promise of big changes once that completes. Most of February was challenging, though. I felt isolated under lockdown, and my company was handling remote working poorly. The repetition of the days was difficult, with my energy very low.

I reduced my daily step goal to 10,000 in the middle of the month as I was struggling to do much more than that. My total for February was 323,882 (compared to 415,784 in January), an average of about 11,500. I’ve been so bored of walking that I resorted to buying a new pair of running shoes. I’ve not been doing any more than occasional lengths of jogging, but it is the first positive thing I’ve done towards running in some time. I’m taking it very easy and doing lots of physio to avoid setting my hip off.

Not for the Faint-Hearted has continued its weekly writing session, and I’m enjoying being part of that community. There was also a new issue of Bodge, and sending out the physical copies of that is fun.

Work on the South Downs Way project continues slowly. I’m in an informal workshop with Rosy and Sam, where I’ve polished up a couple of new pieces. I’m finally putting a new actual collection of stories together. I’m moving slowly (so slowly!) but I don’t feel as if I am wasting time. Rather I’ve been improving as a writer and this will hopefully show in the new work.

I’ve been reading less news, which has resulting in me spending a lot more time with books. I read Salena Godden’s Mrs Death Misses Death, and long to hear that as an audiobook. David Mitchell’s Slade House was light but fun; Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera was an effective book on a lot of current debates; Derek Jarman’s At Your Own Risk was a powerful depiction of gay life in the 90’s. Patricia Lockwood’s No-one is Talking About This was an impressive novel about being Extremely Online and very inspiring.

I watched a pile of movies last month: Wheel of Time, Kill List, The Wailing, Quatermass and the Pit and Apostle. Glitch In the Matrix was interesting, but the interview with killer Joshua Cooke unbalanced it somewhat. I also watched Bill & Ted Face the Music which was exactly the positive film I needed at the time. TV included more Wandavision, Rupaul’s Drag Race US, and the Mandalorian. It was great to see Joe Black brought back to Drag Race UK, even if he failed to make it through to the next episode.

Onward into March!