Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD
Not Rated, 90 minutes
Directed by: Jeremy Workman
LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD is a feel-good documentary that chronicles a young woman discovering her own autonomy in the world through an unconventional, unique form of artistic expression – domino toppling. Documentarian Jeremy Workman captures 20-year-old YouTuber/ domino artist Lily Hevesh as she navigates her way through a life that’s ripe with possibilities, one where she’s free to deconstruct and destroy what she’s created, and find even more beauty within the colorful rubble. Celebratory, sweet-natured and poignant, it’s the kind of wholesomeness our world can use right now.
To understand Hevesh, who goes by Hevesh5 in her online community, is to first understand her art. Workman takes a “fly on the wall” approach to capturing how she works and creates these awe-inspiring pieces, methodically planning and calculating where her unmarked, brightly colored dominos will fall. We then get to know the person behind these breathtaking creations, delving into how she went from virtual anonymity existing online under a genderless handle to a ceiling-breaking force as the only female in her field. Her psyche subtly reveals itself throughout. Not only is she an astute observer, but she’s a great listener collaborating with fellow colleagues, who help set up her creations.
Workman delicately layers in heartrending details about Hevesh through each portion which zigzags all over her biographical timeline, starting with the background on how she first garnered fame (Hugh Jackman sharing her video) and her present college experience (not totally for her right now, thanks). And while its truncated chronology could use a bit more finesse, it’s fascinating to see her building her brand. The documentarian’s structural style ties into a similar notion in his subject’s art that in order to understand the creation built, we should understand the extenuating circumstances that have built the builder. For that personal portrait, interviews with her adoptive parents provide great insight and are amongst the film’s most genuinely moving moments.
Perhaps what resonates the loudest is the metaphor gleaned from watching her masterful builds. She remains determined and unfazed, even in the midst of intense pressure and failure (like the collapse that’s so utterly defeating, it’s a wonder she had the wherewithal to continue). Her indomitable spirit perseveres when faced with faceless, cowardly cyberbullies who occasionally litter her comment section with their garbage. She simply brushes them off as she’s too busy putting positivity into the world with her one of a kind creations. It’s hard not to be moved by her engagement with fans and fellow creators who have continually inspired her throughout her journey to become an entrepreneurial force. She’s learning from the world around her, but really the world has a lot more to learn from her.
LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD begins airing on Discovery+ on August 26. It will be in theaters (at the IFC Center) on August 27.