Shawn Mendes: In Wonder is very much in the same vein of Liam Gallagher: As It Was, or Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana, where we are given documentaries of these living musicians, yet recognise that it isn’t going to be objective or a proper deep-dive. It is a slight glimpse behind the veil of fame and celebrity, but a heavily curated one, manufactured as a way to market new music. Both Liam Gallagher and Taylor Swift’s documentaries were released in tandem with their new albums, more so for Gallagher than Swift. Miss Americana premiered early 2020, while Lover was released in August 2019, but the fact still remains that with so much of the music in the documentary drawing attention to the album, it is bound to generate more interest and hype.
Shawn Mendes: In Wonder is pretty much in the same lane, since his fourth album Wonder is releasing on December 4, 2020, and this film is a publicity vehicle for his new music. However, in comparison to the Liam Gallagher and Taylor Swift docs, both of which I have watched, Mendes’ vulnerability and low points feel more authentic, due in part to Mendes being unflinchingly honest in the face of his inadequacies and struggles. One of the very first images in the film is of Mendes stripped down, in the shower, baring himself to us, allowing the camera to seize these intimate moments and create art out of it.
One of the aspects of Mendes’ life highlighted in the documentary is his relationship with Camila Cabello, which made headlines everywhere when the two fell into a romantic relationship after working on the music video for their song Senorita. The details of how it all happened isn’t made privy to us, making it apparent that while the two are famous, it doesn’t mean that the machinations of their relationship have to be as well. Both Mendes and Cabello have received quite a bit of pushback regarding their relationship, with some citing the nature of it as orchestrated by both singers’ PR teams. The documentary shows us the quiet moments between the two, a shared kiss before a performance, holding hands together backstage – the moments when the two don’t realise the cameras are on them, letting the authenticity of the relationship speak for itself.
Their relationship doesn’t dominate the documentary – Camila is there simply because she’s a part of Shawn’s life. We also get treated to the dynamics of his home life, how much he treasures his hometown and his friendships, and the zealous work ethic that Mendes has imposed upon himself. He is aware that he only has a certain number of years to be where he’s at, and he desires to milk that for as long as possible, to make as much music and art as he can.
The documentary takes us into Mendes’ songwriting and creation process, and it’s fascinating to see how the music came to be, with Mendes many a time getting the sound and beats of a song long before the words even come. The entire thing works because Mendes is passionate about what he does, and grateful for the life he gets to lead. It is a life that he has envisioned for so long, and oftentimes, we never think about the journeys these artists take in getting to where they are. Mendes was discovered through his vines, where he used to do covers of songs – there is such an overwhelming sense of awe to this, to see the humbleness in his beginnings which has sustained in him till this very point.
Shawn Mendes is proof that the act of dreaming has power, and you can manifest your pursuits into concrete reality. And while Mendes has anxieties, about his imperfections and not measuring up the yardstick he has for himself, there is an idealism and purity to him that is a rare thing to see in a celebrity. Maybe it’s because he is young, he’s just starting his career, he’s in love – there is just so much wonder in his world that he has yet to be hit by the darker sides of it. As we watch his story end, aware that he still has a long way to go, we, with our cynical adult eyes, hope that never changes for him.
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The most fascinating aspect of the documentary is Mendes himself; his unflinching honesty with regard to his music and life, as he lays everything bare for the camera.
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