… and the time loop film greets you every day?! Ian Samuels’ SIXTEEN HOURS OF ETERNITY may follow a familiar concept, but is so warm and lovable that it doesn’t bother you at all. We reveal more about the film in our review!
OT: The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (USA 2021)
The plot summary
Teenager Mark (Kyle Allen) has a highly complicated morning routine that he masters as if in his sleep. Mark’s perfectly fitting choreography is no coincidence: he’s been stuck in a time loop for a long time and is having fun implementing his routine with ever greater precision. But he also has a goal that still needs to be mastered: finally getting into conversation with a girl from the swimming pool. When one day Mark’s rehearsed chain of events (and the associated attempt to get to know each other) is disrupted by the mysterious and very direct Margaret (Kathryn Newton), he is completely astonished: Why doesn’t she follow the usual course of things? Does she experience the time loop the same way he does? Mark decides to find out more about Margaret – but has no idea how much the encounter with her will change him. Let alone that Margaret’s experiences with the time loop are significantly more profound than his…
Very few people would scream at the beginning of a RomCom or an action film about emergency services averting danger: “Oh, we already had that!” The reception of time loop films, on the other hand, currently operates according to different rules: Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day” did not invent the idea of a person reliving the same day over and over again. But the melancholic-romantic comedy classic with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell popularized and left a lasting impression on this concept to such an extent that creative people continue to feel the need to point out within their film that “Groundhog Day” came before them. “Sixteen Hours of Eternity” not only stands in the shadow of this evergreen from 1993, but also has to withstand the dominant echo of another film right from the start. At least for parts of the audience. Because the USA publishing policy creates a small almost paradox: The opening scene of “Sixteen Hours of Eternity” (in the original: “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things”) is a striking reminder of how a US streaming hit and fantasy film festival hit with audiences from the Opened in 2020. A well-humored protagonist dances through the day in such a flawlessly choreographed way that it quickly becomes clear: “Oh, we’re in a time loop film – which, contrary to the ‘Groundhog’ formula, starts long after the main character has arrived in the loop.” Even some the routine habits of the protagonists are similar. But since the USA home cinema release of “Palm Springs” was postponed from the original January date to April 2021, many in this country will probably mistake the “predecessor” for the “copier”.
One day Mark (Kyle Allen) meets the smart Margaret (Kathryn Newton).
Maybe it will help “Sixteen Hours of Eternity” because interested parties who stumble across it more or less by chance will not be immediately confronted with too many “But that’s unoriginal!” thoughts. However, it can also have an attractive effect to approach “Sixteen Hours of Eternity” with this baggage of prior film knowledge. It inevitably puts us in a similar position to the protagonist Mark: “It’s all been there!”, is the basic mood, so there is nothing left but to see what attractive things can be brought out of the old routine. So when Mark, during the opening of “Sixteen Hours of Eternity,” makes gestures and makes small comments to relatives and strangers as if it were second nature, it creates a strange emotional balance between a feeling of comfort and desolation: Mark actually enjoys the lack of challenge – and that Director Ian Samuels (“Sierra Burgess is a Loser”) Every little thing that he implements very accurately, like small, pointed punchlines, knows how to delight. Nevertheless, the monotony of Mark’s time loop life cannot be denied – and even the most inclined film lovers will inevitably think: “Well, what new do you have to offer, you umpteenth ‘Groundhog Film’ in just a few years?!”
“When Mark makes gestures and small comments to relatives and strangers as if it were second nature during the opening of Sixteen Hours of Eternity, it creates a strange emotional balance between comfort and desolation.”
After a comedic montage in which Mark tries to finally rehearse the “step sequence” that will enable him to have a detailed conversation with the swimming pool visitor he has his eye on, it comes as a small revelation when Margaret notices Mark’s monotonous routine Flirting attempt overture messes up. Like Mark, we look puzzled as this curly-haired blonde traipses through an otherwise identical scenario with quick, determined steps. Who is she, why can she move freely from the “predetermined” process, what does she plan to do? From this moment on, the magic of “Sixteen Hours of Eternity” begins, as screenwriter Lev Grossman, who hereby adapts his short story of the same name, deviates from the supposedly obvious path in tiny, heartwarming ways. Mark’s fascination is immediately drawn from the swimming pool girl to Margaret, and his dreamy comments about her looks, which he heaps on his best friend, make it clear: Yes, for Mark there is a good dose of pure infatuation with appearances. But main actor Kyle Allen also puts a deeper curiosity in Mark’s voice, which expresses hope that he has found a comrade in fate and can thus escape the boredom in the time loop.
What do you do with your free time when the day repeats itself over and over again?
From then on, Mark gradually moves away from his enjoyment of life without consequences and towards a longing for innovation. He longs for change, which, although fueled by romantic admiration for Margaret, is not fueled by that alone. Mark is also driven by a thirst for knowledge and experience: When he and Margaret stroll through their hometown, he listens with interest to the stories of his well-read counterpart and learns. In addition, the collective challenge of identifying all the wonderful little incidents on this repetitive day fills him with an empathetic warmth that his routine, reminiscent of a high-score hunt, did not previously contain. Cynical voices could perhaps accuse “Sixteen Hours of Eternity” (not least in view of the original title) that the passages about the countless small moments of perfection brazenly exaggerate the effect of a groundhog film: after all, time loop narratives are often metaphors for life, as the essayist already said Patrick H. Willems explained: We wake up, go about our day’s work, fall asleep, get up again, and it goes on forever – the differences between the individual days are often marginal. Regardless of whether the central message of a time loop film is that only the lesson of modesty allows inner redemption (“… and the groundhog greets you every day”), or that only admitting how much our actions have consequences allows mental liberation (“If you If you die, your whole life passes you by, they say”) or that only finding a mutual bond on equal terms makes maneuvering through this strange mix of monotony and uncertainty bearable: A constant aftertaste of the groundhog plot is that you do cannot change the fundamental nature of our existence – but can change the perspective of whether it is up to us to discover the details full of beauty in the mundane dullness. Or more simply: Carpe diem!