If you’re not one of the more than 3 million subscribers to Lily Hevesh’s YouTube channel, then you may be unaware of what it takes to become a world-famous domino artist. “Lily Topples the World” aims to enlighten you; but this undisciplined, curiously shallow documentary from Jeremy Workman might leave you with more questions than answers.
Blessed with a subject who is charmingly open and seemingly devoid of ego, Workman mostly keeps out of the way. Adopted from China as an infant, Hevesh, now 22, has been designing, building and toppling fabulously intricate contraptions since the age of 9, posting her efforts to YouTube. This passion requires patience and a certain obsessiveness, as well as a willingness to learn the basics of geometry and physics. The results are a divine fusion of engineering and aesthetics; so why are no engineers or artists invited to comment?
In place of knowledgeable contributors are irritating music and blandly repetitive interviews as we follow Hevesh from convention appearances to meetings with ecstatic fans and collaborative projects with fellow topplers. With no real structure, the film becomes a blur of collapsing plastic rectangles. It’s all very pretty, but it’s also indulgent and uninformative — terms like “column technique” are dropped, without explanation — teaching us little about the effort and skill behind the shapes.
Similarly, we see Hevesh ponder the worthlessness of a college degree to a career in toppling, but are never apprised of her possible long-term professional options. No arguments, frustrations or consequential disappointments mar the film’s unvaryingly upbeat tone. This leaves us with a movie that feels more like a marketing tool for her self-designed brand of dominoes than a nuanced portrait of an unusual talent.
Lily Topples the World
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. Watch on Discovery+.