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I am a subscriber to the insanely popular domino artist Lily Hevesh’s YouTube page, Hevesh5. I’m not sure how I came upon it but I’m sure either a friend shared one of her videos or YouTube recommended it as I was clicking through to some other thing. You’ve probably seen one of her videos too or at least seen or work in a movie or TV show. Lily Topples the World is a documentary about her rise as a domino artist and, in fact, the rise of anything known as a domino artist in general thanks to YouTube and the ability of anyone to define art and create themselves.
That’s what the documentary wants to be about. Unfortunately, it can’t quite seem to ever get there. There’s a compelling story in the tale of an adopted girl who helps launch an entire form of art and business thanks to new technology all while being one of the few women in the space. It’s just not really shared in this film.
Lily Topples the World
Director: Jeremy Workman
Lily Topples the World spends a lot of time skirting around the interesting parts of its subject’s story. The film follows Lily Hevesh as she leaves college and embarks on a career as a domino artist. She is, by far, the most popular and well-known there is, far surpassing her peers in subscribers and, honestly, skill. The movie’s thrust, if there is one, focuses around Hevesh’s desire to make a life out of dominos and launch a new line of branded dominos that she’s designed. There are a whole ton of interesting threads to pick up on.
Hevesh appears to be the only girl in this burgeoning art form and yet the film spends only minutes early on unpacking that fact, content instead to interview her college friends about what it’s like to know a famous YouTube celebrity. She’s making a huge life decision in leaving college but again the film doesn’t deal with that, looking instead to simply show off the work Lily is doing. The movie spends time showing us domino run after domino run but never gets into who Hevesh is as a person aside from dipping its toe into her family and history.
Hevesh herself seems reluctant to unpack herself anymore, which is fine but it’s the documentary maker’s job to do it for her. Instead, we get a movie that feels more like an extended version of one of her YouTube videos at best or, at worst, a publicity stunt for launching her new domino sets.
This all comes to a head in the conclusion of the film, where Lily’s quest to get her own sets — which, in fairness, seems like an earnest desire to make a better domino for artists — usurps the film’s story. That would be fine if the film actually dove into the struggles and logistics of launching a toy line but it, like the rest of the movie, it keeps everything infuriatingly high-level. There’s a moment when Hevesh and her father are looking over a contract to make the toys and mentioning percentages of profit, neither obviously knowing what they’re really looking at. It feels fake, like the obvious lawyers are hiding right behind the camera ready to do the actual work and we’re just being given the glossed overview.
At one point the filmmakers are sitting with Lily asking her about how dominos have changed her. Her responses are pretty lackluster and the man behind the camera tries to pivot multiple times to pull a bit more out, eventually getting some platitudes but no real story. That’s the feeling of all of Lily Topples the World, a move that is all surface with little attempt to go beneath. Lily seems like a charming artist and her domino work is truly amazing but the documentary delivers more of a brand than a person. You’d be better off watching her YouTube videos to find the true Lily Hevesh.