Netflix documentary Shawn Mendes: In Wonder barely uncovers the shiny veneer of music stardom

Shawn Mendes: In Wonder humanises the Grammy nominated singer, and offers valuable insight to super fans who often worship their favourite celebrities.

Devki Nehra November 29, 2020 13:36:35 IST
Netflix documentary Shawn Mendes: In Wonder barely uncovers the shiny veneer of music stardom

Shawn Mendes | Image from Twitter

You know a pop star has made it when they finally have a documentary dedicated to their lives (and struggles). Shawn Mendes joins the big leagues (like Taylor Swift, Miss Americana; Lady Gaga, Gaga: Five Foot Two; Beyoncé, Homecoming) with Netflix's In Wonder helmed by Grant Singer, the director behind many Ariel Pink, The Weeknd, and Sky Ferriera music videos.

Singer focuses on who Mendes is under the facade of stardom — just a guy from Ontario, Canada who loves music. It wasn't too long ago that Mendes was recording six second covers of pop songs, and posting them on the now defunct Vine.

In Wonder humanises the Grammy nominated singer, and offers valuable insight to super fans who often inordinately revere their favourite celebrities. The documentary features a year in his life — from the 2019 world tour to recording sessions of his new album Wonder, meet-and-greets with gushing fans, his steamy Video Music Awards performance with girlfriend Camila Cabello, intertwined with intimate face-to-camera sequences where he shares tidbits about himself.

The documentary opens at one of his live shows where he climbs the main stage to a massive, screaming crowd. There is no room for error, Mendes explains in a voiceover. "The ego comes rushing in, and it goes ‘Don’t mess up. Because you’re the man. Everyone is saying you’re the man. So don’t mess up." This brief monologue sets the tone for the rest of the doc, that Mendes is a mere mortal, with the same struggles, just with higher stakes involved.

In Wonder focuses solely on Mendes and his career, so those expecting a juicy scoop about his very public romance with Cabello will have to return to the tabloids. He does recall their first meeting, and how their friendship blossomed into a relationship. Mendes is clearly lovestruck, and reveals that Cabello has inspired several songs in his discography. He says, "We were in New York and my song comes on the radio or something, and the fact comes up that it’s about her, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s about you.’ And I’m like, ‘Everything is about you. They’ve always been about you."

Another striking scene in the doc is how months of touring finally catch up to him. He talks about wrestling with anxiety and the pressure to remain undaunted in the face of adversity. He temporarily loses his voice to laryngitis in Sao Paulo, a diagnosis that drives the organisers to postpone his performance and disappoint thousands of fans. We see him convene with his team to arrive at a consensus, and bury his head in his hands when he realises that cancellation is imminent. "The hardest part is feeling that I let them [the fans] down," he relays through a voice app. But he pulls through (we saw that coming) and In Wonder ends on a happy note with him brainstorming for his new album in a beach town.

The doc has all the trappings of a publicity gimmick, the themes of struggle, self- doubt in the doc coincide with the motifs in the singles 'Wonder' and 'Monster'. In Wonder may set out to give an honest picture of Mendes on the road and in action, but without revealing too much, and always maintaining his pristine image. Moreover, the strategic release of In Wonder right before the album release on 4 December, makes the doc's intention crystal clear.

Nevertheless, the Mendes Army is going to lap up his display of vulnerability, not to forget the opening shower sequence, and the many concerts they wished they had the chance to attend.

Shawn Mendes: In Wonder is now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer here —

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