Lily Topples the World [SXSW Review]

Lily Topples the World is a great big blast of happiness. The documentary, which had its world premiere at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, focuses on Lily Hevesh, a domino artist and YouTube star who repeatedly lights the internet on fire with her amazing work. She does things with dominos that I didn't know were possible. You may be asking yourself how a 90-minute film can be sustained on the subject of building and then knocking over elaborate domino structures. Rest assured that there's plenty here to keep you hooked throughout.

There are really three elements to the film. First and foremost is Lily's work. Director Jeremy Workman follows her around the world as she attends museum events, toy fairs, school lectures, and more. In each case, she creates a dazzling display that leaves viewers breathless. The dominoes fall into shapes or patterns. Special ways of laying them down allow the scenes to change colors. Towers several feet tall erode in a beautiful, mesmerizing way. You really develop an appreciation for her considerable skills.

About half an hour into Lily Topples the World, we get to know more about its subject's life. Her parents explain how they adopted her from China, where she was abandoned in front of an orphanage as a baby, another innocent child rejected because boys were considered more desirable there. Lily talks about growing up in a community where she was the only Asian, as well as how that made her feel. Dominos, it turns out, gave her an activity that provided much-needed confidence.

After delving into who she is and what she does, the film wraps up by following Lily as she takes on the next part of her goal: starting her own branded line of dominos. Meetings with toy executives are caught on camera, and it's impressive how detailed she is. Having worked with dominos so extensively, she understands the qualities they need to be perfect for toppling. Watching this young woman in her early twenties fighting to bring her vision to life is inspiring.

It's impossible not to feel happy watching Lily Topples the World. It's so much fun, and Lily is such a charming, upbeat presence. After spending ninety minutes with her, you might just find yourself inclined to go buy some dominos.

Lily Topples the World

Lily Topples the World is unrated, but contains nothing objectionable. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.