Fun doc covers domino superstar Lily Hevesh’s journey from YouTube to The Tonight Show and beyond
Few things rival the aesthetic beauty of watching dominoes topple. The wave of sound and movement weaving through the dominoes, no matter how simplistic or complex their arrangement, is hypnotic. It’s one of the surest ways to time-travel, taking away your worries and replacing them, however briefly, with the giddiness of a child. If Jeremy Workman’s documentary Lily Topples the World featured only clips of intricate domino patterns cascading down, it would’ve been a delight. Workman and his subject, Lily Hevesh, dig deeper than that, and elevates Lily Topples the World into a crowd-pleaser with an emotional undercurrent that sweeps over viewers.
Meet Lily Hevesh, a renowned domino builder with over three million subscribers to her YouTube channel Hevesh5. She started posting videos of her awesome builds in 2013, and now she’s a 21 year-old with a budding domino empire. Well, she may get to empire status one day. But she does have her own line of dominoes, H5 Domino Creations, created specifically for toppling, and an impressive fanbase, including Hugh Jackman, Will Smith, Katy Perry, and Jimmy Fallon. While her dreams are big, for now, Lily is a friendly, charmingly enthusiastic young woman carving out her place in the world.
Lily Topples the World mixes the highs that Lily has already reached with the relatable struggles she has gone through on her journey. At the heart of the documentary is the story of someone turning their loneliness into a community. Lily, and many of the other teenaged domino builders we’re introduced to, started off as kids who found solace in being alone. While they each talk about the patience, creativity, and other skills learned from their time spent playing with dominoes, it’s the sense of self-discovery that ties this community together. For Lily, dominoes have helped her sort through issues of abandonment that started when she was born. She was born in China to parents who were hoping for a boy and, under the nation’s One Child Policy, dropped Lily off at a local orphanage. She was adopted by American parents and came to her new home without anyone even knowing her actual birthday.
Despite the harrowing story that gives the film its emotional backbone, the emphasis on our personal journeys is heartening. No matter how we navigate them individually, we are always tied up in the journeys of others. Lily Topples the World is, for the most part, an ode to finding yourself and finding a community. When we see Lily meeting fans, young and old, and bonding with them over dominoes, there’s a shared joy that is tangible. Lily Topples the World is a charming story about building themselves, and their community, one domino at a time.