“Lily Topples the World” opens with an interview of Lily Hevesh’s college roommate, talking about the oddities of living with a YouTube creator with 3 million subscribers, especially one who occupies such an odd space as domino art. The film goes on to document Hevesh’s college life and friendships, while also introducing the conflict between the fun of college and the advancement of Hevesh’s creative career. It is a compelling conflict, where neither seems the easy option. Then, 25-ish minutes later, she makes her choice, and we still have an hour of film left.
The documentary, released in August, is directed by Jeremy Workman, and executive produced by Kelly Marie Tran, of Star Wars fame. The film centers on 21-year-old Lily Hevesh, a YouTube creator and the world’s most preeminent domino artist. While at first, the idea can seem strange, over the course of the film one comes to truly appreciate the sheer dedication involved in the profession. The film chronicles Hevesh throughout several domino events, one of them in our very own backyard at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.
A good documentary needs a plot to thread it together. It isn’t a truly narrative film, and so every scene doesn’t have to be devoted to advancing that plot, especially with such an inherently interesting premise as domino art, but there should still be some plot.
I don’t think that the college plot would have been a good centerpiece. There’s not much of it, and it stretches over a short period of time, a behind-the-scenes of Hevesh’s domino artistry. But as it is, where it is, it feels extraneous.
Just before the college plot is concluded, another plot thread is introduced: Lily’s desire to make her own brand of premium toppling dominos. This is a good plot thread, it makes sense, and the creators obviously realize that it is compelling, given that the film ends with its conclusion. And yet, it’s not how the film begins. It vanishes for a large portion of the film.
While it does stretch on long, the film is not bad. The domino sequences are very interesting, alongside the peeks into the culture of domino artistry. One notable light spot in the dragging ladder half of the film is Lily’s helper in some of her more expansive later builds, who snarkily comments on the odd trend of other male domino artists being confusingly muscular.
One thing that the film does very well is make Lily seem impressive. It never shies from showing her as the top of her field, while mercifully making only a brief mention of the “woman in x” situation that she finds herself in. It truly shows her skill, and prowess, while still making her relatable.
The Brattleboro section is short, but the town is only given slightly less screen time than other tourist destinations in the film like Paris or Athens, which is fun. It is rather surreal seeing the town with an outsider’s eyes, but it shows downtown in a good light, and the section overall left me with a smile on my face.
While the film may not be perfect, it is enjoyable, and one thing it does well is spectacle. And, as it is screening on a big screen at the Latchis Theatre, locally, I recommend seeing it. It looked great on my computer screen, but I can’t imagine how excellent it would be on the big screen.