The Underground Railroad Review

Barry Jenkins has made quite a name for himself since his film Moonlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture back in 2016. It was definitely a memorable win for him and his beautiful movie. Since then he chose to do a project that reflects the African-American experience, If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the work of James Baldwin. His latest project is The Underground Railroad based on the historical fiction novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead.

Thuso Mbedu plays Cora, a Georgia slave. She’s not really happy with the current situation she’s in on the plantation picking cotton. She has a friend named Caesar, played by Aaron Pierre. Together they hatch a plan to escape the plantation and the thumb of the plantation master’s brother. When tragedy befalls the brother, the other takes control of his land and slaves. The slaves aren’t happy about this turn of events. Cora and Caesar’s plan moves into full effect and they run. Eventually landing in South Carolina through the Underground Railroad. This is not the end of Cora’s story though. It’s just the beginning.

Cora’s journey takes many turns, some good and some bad, but mostly bad. SHE tops in North Carolina with a sympathetic man named Martin, played by Damon Herriman, and his wife to the Underground Railroad. She gets captured by a slave catcher, Ridgeway played by Joel Edgerton, and his little assistant, going through the burning countryside of Tennessee. She escapes once again at the hand of her newest savior and confidant Royal, played by William Jackson Harper, and then arrives in an idyllic community on a farm in Indiana called Valentine.

Suffice to say, Cora’s journey has been fraught with a lot of pain and suffering at the hands of Ridgeway and others, but she has also been embraced as a loved one and family member by Caesar, Martin, Royal, and the Valentine community. Her life hasn’t been easy. Even when she was a child growing up in Georgia. She learned a lot about survival from her mother who protected her, but also taught her how to survive if she ended up on her own. She needed those skills she learned from her mother.

As seen in Jenkins’s past films, he likes to play with the camera angles and how the cinematography plays into the overall feel of the film. In this series, he has a lot to work with in terms of locations and various weather conditions. The burning brush in Tennessee was quite the touch in the middle episodes. It showed the bleak nature of Cora’s situation. The beautiful backdrops of Indiana, South Carolina, and Georgia were a stark contrast to Tennessee. Also, he uses dream sequences to get into the mind of his main character that had very strange camera effects. Jenkins is a master behind the lens of a camera

Even though this tale is one of fiction, it is grounded in reality. All the scenarios that befall Cora in this series are very believable for the period this series takes place in. The authenticity which Jenkins shows is nothing short of brilliant. From the clothes to the carriages to the farms and even the rituals that men and women partake in and the revelry they enjoy at times are all spot on. The characters even get the accents right in various parts of the country the series moves to. This series does a lot correct.

With all great forms of literature, you must have a protagonist, Cora in this case, and an antagonist, Ridgeway in this series. Ridgeway is a flawed man with a damaged past. His past relationship with his father, who he greatly differs from about slavery, is a key aspect of his character. This helps make him an emotionless man who has a dogged way about him. He will stop at nothing to return Cora to her accusers and that’s his mission right or wrong. That makes him a very dangerous man. Edgerton embraces this role thoroughly and becomes the evil we all fear in life.

The Underground Railroad is one of the most authentic-looking and feeling films or shows about this subject matter ever. The comparison is obviously Roots from 1976 and that would be good because they are both very good examples of this genre. I would say 12 Years a Slave is still the best, but The Underground Railroad is a masterpiece in its own right. The acting by all involved will surely garner Emmy nominations and potential wins, the craftsmanship behind and in front of the camera is all first-rate. Jenkins has done it again.

5 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman


In the Heights Review

Lin-Manuel Miranda has made a name for himself with the smash hit Tony Award-winning production of Hamilton a few years ago. Since then he’s written the music for the Disney animated film Moana, starred as a lamplighter in Mary Poppins Returns, and played an Aeronaut in the HBO television series His Dark Materials, based on the popular book series by Phillip Pullman. Before all that he produced the Broadway musical In the Heights about his life growing up in Washington Heights, New York, a section of Manhattan,. After all his other success he has finally been able to bring In the Heights to the big screen with the help of Warner Brothers.

In the Heights was delayed a year but it comes out on June 11th everywhere including HBO Max. It’s the story of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) (HamiltonMonsters and MenA Star is Born) who owns a bodega, a small grocery store in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood. His dream is of owning his own restaurant on a beach in Puerto Rico. Along with him, the film focuses on his girlfriend Venessa (Melissa Berrara) as an inspiring fashion designer, and another couple, Benny (Corey Hawkins), and his love interest, Nina (Leslie Grace), a singer-songwriter.

In a musical, there are a lot of other characters that round out the cast. Jimmy Smits, Marc Anthony, Rita Moreno (West Side Story), and Ariana Greenblatt are a few of the others in a very large cast of actors who round out this cast. Everybody has their own subplot revolving around regentrification in this neighborhood in New York in the 1980s. Like most people, everybody has a dream, and getting out of this hot neighborhood in New York is first and foremost on their minds. It makes sense to want to go to greener pastures if you’re from a packed area in a big city.

All great musicals have to have great songs that are memorable in the context of the film. In the instance of In the Heights, it’s the first song introducing the main characters and the world they live in. This was a huge spring number that brought me into their world. I felt like I knew where these people were from the right of the bat at the beginning of the film. The rest of the songs from “Benny’s Dispatch”, “It Won’t Be Long Now”, to “When You’re Home” all help understand the characters’ motivations and where they want to go in their lives. They focus on the character aspects after the first opening number. I care about all of these people and their lives.

Musicals can be a bit set locked and not very realistic as far as their production values go. In the Heights brings the viewer into this world with vigor. The locations are brought to life beautifully. The color pallet they use on the buildings and the signage jump of the screen and bring light to the neighborhood. The cinematography is masterful. The costumes and hairstyles match this ’80s aesthetic perfectly. All of these aspects of the film bring the viewer instantly into this world. It comes alive on screen. The filmmakers deserve all the credit for this. 

Jon M. Chu, famous for directing G.I. Joe: RetaliationNow You Can See Me 2, and the breakout hit of 2018, Crazy Rich Asians, is at the helm of In the Heights. With the help of Lin-Manuel Miranda, he was able to make this film relatable to everyone watching even though it is predominantly about the Latin American community in Brooklyn, New York, it is accessible to all those watching it. The struggles and family aspects can be translated into any community, black, white, or Latino. This is the real achievement of In the Heights.

There have been a lot of different kinds of musicals on the big screen. During the ’50s and ’60s, they were more prominent. Over the last few decades, there haven’t been as many of them. If one has come out on the big screen or streaming it hasn’t been that good. The story might be good but the songs aren’t. That’s a big problem with musicals lately. They just don’t bring the viewer in with memorable songs. That’s what In the Heights gets right. It brings the viewers into this world with the songs and once that happens you’re hooked on Usnavi’s story along with all the others. This is a perfect film for people of all ages, races, creeds, and religions. It’s the first legitimate Oscar contender of the year.

5 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

Stowaway Review

Joe Penna is coming off of a mild success with his last film the Arctic starring Mads Mikkelsen about a man who gets stranded in the middle of the Arctic wastelands. His sophomore outing Stowaway is set in space. He likes quiet places to set his films in obviously. He hopes to garner more of the success he got for Arctic with Stowaway

A crew of three members played by Toni Colette, Daniel Dae Kim, and Anna Kendrick, have set out on a mission to Mars when they find they have a fourth member of the crew. This member is accidentally on board due to an injury he suffered while working on the craft before launch. Due to the length of the trip, the crew and craft can’t turn around or go back. Their best option is to try to create more oxygen for their fourth member.

Films set in space are always a gamble because the set production, costumes, and cinematography have to be pretty good-looking. Or everything could come across as fake, phony, and or unbelievable. Then the audience is completely drawn out of the film. Stowaway has the right aesthetic to it to make it look real in the eyes of the viewer such as me. The other aspect of the film that needed to be real is the danger aspect. Are these people in real danger and do I believe what the story says on how they are put in this situation? I did believe the situation they were in and I felt the danger coming from the cast members.

The actors are all first-rate so they know how to get into character, especially Toni Colette who’s been doing this for a while. Her turns in The Sixth Sense and Hereditary are both phenomenal, to say the least. Anna Kendrick and Daniel Dae Kim are also established stars in Hollywood and can get to the point of their characters for the most part. They too do a very good job making this situation a vital one and a life-altering scenery for the entire crew. Penna is good at putting his characters in grave danger.

Stowaway moves relatively quickly through its hour and fifty-six-minute run time. At times it seemed to drag though. The atmosphere of space can sometimes be a drag on the story. The story should have allowed for more character-building moments, instead, it focuses on the survival moments. It gets into the space jargon too much for my liking. I would have liked to know more about these people who may or may not lose their lives. The script is the worst part of the film. Also maybe twenty minutes could have been cut off the runtime to make it flow better.

Stowaway is a solid space drama. It has a good cast led by three stellar actors. The visuals are very good as well as the below-the-line categories of costumes and set production. The gravity of the story is fine, but maybe a little bit more back story to the characters would have helped me care about their situation more. Overall the film does its job of making me and the audience concerned about these people’s welfare, and that makes it a success in my book.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EICdisappointment media

Monster (2021) Review

Courtroom dramas can be a bit of a mixed bag. Some can turn out to be cinematic masterpieces, such as 12 Angry MenA Time to Kill, or this past year’s The Trial of the Chicago 7. Others can have a little too much schmaltz and play too much to the camera. The fact remains courtroom dramas have left an indelible mark on cinema for decades. Monster is the latest courtroom drama.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. (WavesLuceIt Comes at Night) plays a New York City teen who has aspirations of being a filmmaker. He has a girlfriend and is a good son to his parents (Jeffrey Wright and Jennifer Hudson). One fateful night, he ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. A bodega he goes to buy a soda in after school gets robbed by some neighborhood thugs. Witnesses say he was at the scene as a lookout. He has to go to a trial to fight for his life for murdering the bodega owner.

Harrison Jr. has proven in his short career he has what it takes to do great dramatic work. He can bring himself to react accordingly to whatever situation he is in on-screen, whether it be to bring tears or get angry or even be happy with his family or loved ones. He does very similar work in Monster as well. He is a very talented actor who is someone to watch in recent years. Awards are bound to come his way for sure, but not for Monster, in which he is good but not great.

Anthony Mandler is primarily a music video director and has also done some commercial work in his career. This is the first feature film he has directed. He sets most of the film in a grey indistinguishable courtroom. I guess this is to show there are no differences between the plaintiffs in the murder case against the bodega owner. Greys are in the middle of black and white. The rest of the film is shown at night or with vivid colors using the sun or streetlights. Showing there is light for Harrison Jr.’s character. The two distinctly different ways to film the movie were very noticeable to me. The cinematography by David Revlon is gorgeous outside and inside it’s drab and dull. I think this was a great choice by Mandler. It shows he’s got experience behind the camera.

Mandler also assembles a great cast besides its leads: John David Washington as one of the bodega robbers, Jennifer Ehle as the protagonist’s public defender, Tim Blake Nelson as a film teacher, and Jjarrel Jerome as another street thug. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the cast. It makes sense all of these talented actors and musicians wanted to work with Mandler. His career as a video and commercial director has proven he knows his way around a set even though this is his film directorial debut.

Cole Wiley, Janece Shaffer, and Radha Blank’s (The 40 Year Old Version) screenplay was based on a novel by Walter Dean Meyers. It won some literacy awards after it was published in 1999/2000. The story is pretty much straightforward. It’s about a kid trying to get out of being involved in a robbery and murder of a bodega owner. The film plays out very simply as this. The drama is there and the courtroom scenes are done very effectively to get across the gravity of the situation. The film just doesn’t go that extra length to get the tragedy and loss of the bodega owner’s story. He is an afterthought in this film until the very end. It focuses slowly on Harrison Jr.’s character and the other men on trial. I would have liked to see more of a well-rounded script/story.

Monster is a solid film that deals with very emotional topics, especially in today’s society. The story is pretty much painted by numbers, even though it’s effective in getting across its message about inner-city violence. The acting by all is serviceable with Harrison Jr. Wright and Hudson as the standouts. The two different filmmaking styles stood out to me the most to show the stark grey interior of the courtroom and the vivid colors of the outdoors with the lights and sun. This film isn’t the best courtroom drama, but it’s far from the worst. It’s a very good first outing for Mandler.

3 1/2

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman


I’m No Longer Here Review

You rarely see a film in a filmmaker career that says as much as I’m No Longer Here. Fernando Frias has created a film about a place, music, and an identity of a group of people rarely seen or talked about. This is a small subsection of Mexican culture that takes place in Monterrey, Mexico. It’s from the point of view of one young man and it’s beautiful yet painful at the same time. This is an amazing film, to say the least.

The film follows one young man in Monterrey, Mexico, and his crew, the Terkos. They have a love of cumbia music or as they say Kolombia. They sing and dance to this music. At this age, they are just innocent kids until they get caught up in a drive-by shooting of some older guys they know. The main kid has to go on the run with his family. He ends up on his own in the United States. Now he has to fend for himself.

At its core, I’m No Longer Here is a fish out of water story. When the main kid ends up in New York, he can’t speak English and has no one to help him. He finds some work and that leads him to befriend a young Asian girl. She helps him as much as she can, but the language barrier between him and her is hard for them to overcome. He falls back on his culture of music and dance, but this doesn’t work out for him either. It’s just a hard row to hoe for him in this strange land.

The writer-director has an eye for great shots. His camera work is very well done. Shots of Monterrey and New York are littered throughout the film. It is the shots of the streets and the dancing scenes that show his craftsmanship. Then there are intimate scenes of two characters talking in a small space, like a bedroom or at a table in a restaurant. How he adds light to these scenes is very impressive. The use of reds and streetlights is first-rate filmmaking. Even in train tunnels and under bridges he gets some beautiful shots. 

A fish out of water story can go wrong if the main character can’t draw in the audience. In this case, the language barrier helps the viewer to understand his plight more. He’s in such a difficult place it’s hard for him to get the help he needs. This allows us, the audience, to feel sorry for him and his situation he’s in. This sort isn’t easy to watch, but the actors and filmmakers make it that much easier because of the work they put in. Everybody including the supporting cast does great work in this film.

I’m not going to claim to completely understand this young man’s culture, his music, or his people because I don’t. But I do understand being lost in a place and not knowing what to do or who to go to for help. I’ve been there before. It’s not a fun experience being in a strange place without anyone to turn to. Add in the differences between cultures and this kid is in a whole world of hurt. I felt it as a viewer, and the filmmaker Fernando Frias put me in his shoes while watching this film. The cultural stuff was beautiful to watch as well. It was a very good experience overall to watch this young man, his friends, and their entire culture from this perspective.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

Those Who Wish me Dead Review

This Who Wish Me Dead is based on a book by Michael Koryta. It’s the latest film from director Taylor Sheridan (Sicario Hell or High Water-Wind River) He has a penchant for making these modern films but putting a classic feel to them. Or as they say, making neo-noir films. This has that kind of feeling to it. It’s a talent lost among directors today. That sets Sheridan apart from his peers.

The film starts in Florida with a father and son. They see some disturbing news on the tv and set out on a road trip cross country. They get tracked down in Montana and then all hell breaks loose. Angelina Jolie plays a firefighter in Montana and Jon Bernthal plays a sheriff. The events that take the father and son to Montana end up getting these actors’ characters involved in the lives of the others. Along with two hitmen played by Aiden Guillen and Nicolas Holt, this cast is stacked.

Set mostly on the Montana wilderness, Those Who Wish Me Dead is basically your run-of-the-mill story of people on the run from men who wish them dead. A classic western trope, but made complex by the nature of a fire that is raging all around the surrounding areas the film takes place in. Sheridan uses this fire to his advantage very nicely. It helps make this story a bit claustrophobic which helps contain the story. Containing it to these select characters helps focus it in one direction.

Angelina Jolie is channeling her motherly instincts in this film. This story falls right into her hands because of what she has to do in the film. She has to care for a character and look out for him because of the difficult situation he’s in. He has nobody to turn to or trust except for her. She is right at home caring for him and his needs and protecting him when necessary.

Sheridan has a way of setting his films whether adapted from a book or not in reality. They have a way of looking and feeling genuine to society. I like that about his films. Setting them in the modern-day yet having classic story beats that make them feel that much more authentic. The viewers feel for his characters and more or less can relate to them on a personal level.

This film is part of Warner Brothers’ role out of their films on their streaming platform as well as in theaters. It will benefit from this dual release. This film as others from Warner Brothers have a cinematic feeling to them and need to be seen on the big screen. A lot of people still aren’t comfortable seeing movies in theaters yet so this streaming release also provides a place for them to see this exciting action-packed film in the comfort of their own homes.

Those Who Wish me Dead is a very good action-packed thriller. It has some very good acting from its stellar cast including Angelina Jolie, Jon Bernthal, and young Noah Jupe. The set of the film in Montana was a very effective part of the film because it allowed for the survival and maternal aspects of the film and characters to come to the forefront. Sheridan has another winner on his hands here and you can watch it where ever you like, in a theater or at home on HBOMax. That’s the best part!

4 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Beolman


Icon Review

Tony Ahedo is a new voice in dramatic cinema. His debut film Icon deals with a lot of real topics and themes that are prevalent in the world today. He has touched a nerve with society. People will be talking about his film. It has already premiered at a couple of film festivals in Florida where he is based. This is an incredible debut based on his previously released short film. He has captured a side of teen life that has rarely been seen on film before. This isn’t your average everyday coming of age film — it’s better.

Parker Padgett plays a teenage boy who has a good life. He has a girlfriend played by Devon Hales and parties with his friends and he is enjoying life as a teenager until one day when his girlfriend tells him she is pregnant. This causes him to spiral downward and get into illegal things. He starts to ponder what his life would be, and about his father, who is in jail. He starts having to think about what his life will end up like in the future. This isn’t the average coming-of-age story.

Coming-of-age films have dealt with dark themes in the past. Kids have gotten into a lot of bad stuff in these films. That good though because this is the real side of life. It’s rare though that a film about pregnancy is captured from the male side of things. These films show how the difficulties of fatherhood can strain even the best of relationships. I know from experience with my own family. Ahedo put his thumb on the pulse of life.

The cast that Ahedo assembled does a very good job of getting to the heart of who these characters are. Their motivations and the emotional state. The script gets to the bottom of what this film is trying to say. The actors execute this dialogue superbly. Mostly unknowns, these actors tackle this script like seasoned professionals. They laugh, cry, and get angry at all the right moments and none of it seems contrived. Ahedo gets every drop of blood, sweat, and tears from them. They should be applauded

Themes of fatherhood or motherhood have been tackled plenty of times in films in the past. Some to comedic nature and others to a more dramatic nature. The film Icon takes a look at various aspects involving both sides of parenthood. The male side, the female side, and the adult side. People forget these terms have parents too. How they react and respond to the decisions of their kids is a key aspect of the story. In this case, they are impeccable. All the responses are perfectly executed.

Having dealt with a father who wasn’t always there for me and my siblings, I can relate to this story of tern pregnancy. The responsibility of a young man and young woman are enormous. Bringing a child into the world is a huge undertaking. There are a lot of single mothers in the world; young men aren’t always responsible enough to be there for their children. It’s easy to leave or give up on a child or mother of an unborn. It takes a real man to stay and accept responsibility for taking care of the said child.

As a producer, Ahedo probably didn’t have much of a budget to make this fantastic film. He gets the most out of his money, though. The production aspects look very authentic. The cinematography, music, and other aspects of the film are first-rate. He gets every penny’s worth from everybody involved in the film. In front and behind the camera. As writer, director, and producer, Ahedo has to work triple time and it shows in the end product.

Icon tackles popular themes but does it in a way previously unseen before. Usually from the female side of things, pregnancy is handled with great care from the male side of things. The aspects of fatherhood and motherhood are dealt with perfectly. The cast and crew and everybody involved deserve all the accolades they can get. Ahedo is the real winner here though. As his breakout film, Icon seems like it’s a work of a seasoned filmmaker. This is the film for people to see how an indie film is done.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

The Boy From Medellin Review

Rappers’ music has an important place in popular culture in the world. We forget that there aren’t just rappers in America. Jose Alvaro Osorio Balvin is better known as J Balvin. He is from Medellin, Colombia, and is known as the “Prince of Reggaeton”, a form of Latin Rap music. He is the voice of his people.

This film starts at a huge concert that Balvin is doing in Medellin, Colombia. It eventually goes back in time to five days before the concert and depicts the events leading up to this big night which is the last on a worldwide tour for Balvin. When he gets back home, he doesn’t realize what he’s come back to. Colombia is amid political strife for its leadership of its people.

The filmmakers show Balvin traveling around his hometown and country visiting various friends and family members. He’s eating at restaurants, working out, and taking pictures wherever he goes. He feels like it’s his civic duty to take all the pictures he can with his fans. It’s them who made him by coming to his concerts and listening to his music. He’s definitely a man amongst the people when he’s back home in Medellin, Colombia.

When you’re a celebrity, you have a responsibility to be more than a musician, athlete, or actor. You have to be somebody who represents something and somebody. In Bavin’s case, his people need a leader to speak for them because they are going through a tough time right now. Balvin doesn’t know if he has it in him to be the leader they need or not. Social media says otherwise. Other rappers come out to criticize him on his stance or lack thereof on the country’s problems.

Colombia is known for its drug cartels and their leaders. That was decades ago though. The country has had a good run in the last couple of decades. It’s been prosperous and its people have been happy, until recently when hundreds of thousands of people have been in the streets protesting education, medical benefits, and other human rights. That’s where Balvin has to step in as far as his people think.

I’m not a fan of this kind of music, but this film made me a fan of this man and his position on these events in his city/country affecting his people. The way the filmmakers decided to tell this story was very effective in getting the message across about this man and his standing in this society. He’s a very important person for his people and his country. His music platform also gives him a voice that can help those in need. The concert was the perfect way to do this and get his message across.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

Misha and the Wolves Review

Documentaries can be straightforward sometimes or they can be a little off the wall. Every once in a while you get a doc that tells a story that’s so incredible it is too good to be true. Misha and the Wolves is a little bit of all of this combined. I don’t know how the filmmakers heard of this story. I didn’t hear about it before I saw this film.

The gist of this story is that a woman who lives in Massachusetts gets a book deal with a local small publishing house after telling her story on a local radio show. Her story is that she traveled from the Netherlands to Germany on foot. While traveling she befriended a pack of wolves and lived among them as a child. After a trial for the funds from the book become national news, this story takes some unexpected twists nobody could see coming.

The film takes place in seven or so different segments with titles such as the publisher, the genealogist, or the private investigator. Each segment introduces new characters and a new side to this wild story, the next crazier than the last. The talking heads say all kinds of things that are not easy to believe. At one point it’s a story of he-said-she-said. You just don’t know who to believe.

This film reminds me of Three Identical Strangers from a few years ago. It had a similar story that was too crazy to believe. Misha is a woman that you just don’t know if you could believe or not. There are a lot of people capable of telling tall tales. It has happened for years now. If some tell a story you’re programmed to believe what they say, so why should people not believe Misha when she tells such an incredible story?

She got so much acclaim off of the book and impending trial that she was able to get a movie made of her story. Misha and the Wolves was made into a film by a French production company and came out in 2007. Disney even tried to buy the rights to this story. The telltale sign that all of this could have been made up is when Misha turned down Oprah and her book club. You would think she’d be through the moon about being on Oprah, but she wasn’t.

This film has a lot of interesting plot points and twists and turns in it. The filmmakers keep you on your feet the entire time watching this film. Misha is a fascinating person… or is she? That’s what they are trying to get at. Is this story so hard to believe it’s unbelievable or is all these talking heads that show up at various points in the film a bunch of liars themselves? That’s for the viewer to determine themselves. And they are brought on an incredible ride in the process.

3 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

Lily Topples the World Review

The thing about a good documentary is it has to engage the viewers with a fascinating story that draws the audience in. Even though Lily Topples the World is pretty much a straightforward doc, it has what it needs to be interesting and fascinating and that’s its subject, Lily Hevesh. Her story is not that of an average success story. She turned lemons into lemonade in her life.

Lily was a Chinese orphan who was adopted by the Hevesh family at the age of one. She was a quiet child and not until she found domino toppling did she find out who she really was. It helped her develop a love of art and engineering she never knew she had until she started on this hobby which will eventually turn into her life’s work even though she is only twenty years old at the time of the filming of this documentary.

This is what America is all about: the story of making something of yourself from nothing. It’s as they say the rags-to-riches story. This is such an American Dream for anybody, let alone a little orphan girl from China. The filmmakers relied on the sympathy card with this film. Lily is a very sympathetic subject. That makes for a very enjoyable film all the way around. You can’t help but root for her in everything she does.

The key to an effective documentary is the filmmakers have to get down to what drives the film. Yes, Lily’s story is that of a huge success story, but not without the key plot point will this film and her story work. And it does because this key plot point drives the film forward so all the talking heads and falling dominoes mean something at the end of the film. That’s what makes a great documentary. 

The world of YouTube celebrities can be a beneficial one. As a YouTuber myself, I understand how this whole can be fun if you’re in the right community. Lily is adored by those in her community and also fellow domino topplers. They put her on a pedestal because in their eyes she’s the greatest at designing and toppling dominoes in the world. It’s a niche thing but she has a massive following nonetheless.

Lily Topples the World is an interesting and fascinating film. It’s about a very niche topic. The subject of the doc is by far the most interesting thing. Her life is defined by the American Dream and that’s what is so great about this film. The filmmaker makes her very engaging and relatable. Her friends and fans worship her and that’s the top of the iceberg of who she is as a person and success story.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media