“Shawn Mendes: In Wonder” is a Netflix documentary that gives the Mendes Army a deeper look into the life of this 22-year-old heartthrob.
Now, the big question is, did this personal and insightful documentary on the “Wonder” artist leave us in wonder? The answer is no, but maybe not for any of the reasons you might think.
“Shawn Mendes: In Wonder” presents a storyline that builds up like one of the song’s written by the man of the hour himself; slow and inviting with a climax that leaves our heart’s pounding, our hair standing and our emotions raw.
It begins with a melancholic opening showing Mendes getting on stage to perform in a stadium filled with thousands of people. The visuals show a scene that is energetic, exciting, and even somewhat chaotic, but played over this thrilling visual is only the voice of Mendes relaying what it feels like to get on stage and be a guy who just loves music – despite the pressure, despite the expectations, despite the ego.
And in a nutshell, that’s what this documentary is all about: it’s about a guy who loves music.
Directed by Grant Singer, the documentary has no singular focus, direction or purpose – somewhat like life itself. It’s everywhere and also no where at the same. We go from clips showing Mendes performing at the VMA’s, to him writing a song with a close group of musicians. The clips don’t give us in-depth insight into any one aspect of his life, but teases us to just hints of Mendes’ life out of the spotlight.
Throwback clips of a young Mendes acts as a reminder of how far he has come, from performing in a humble hall with a few fans, to bringing the house down in jam-packed stadiums. However, regardless of how surreal it felt for the Canadian star to be one of the most popular artists in the world, he explains that this is his “destiny”.
“People are like, ‘What would you be doing if this didn’t happen?'” he narrates over a clip of him singing his heart out on stage. “I feel puzzled by that question, because I feel like this is what I was gonna do.” And we agree, it does feel like the award-winning singer was born to do `this. To sing, to perform, and to capture the hearts of many.
This biographical piece revolves entirely around the concept of how much Mendes loves music, and what a significant role it plays in his life and his identity. Footage of the “In My Blood” star performing with his back facing the camera and a massive crowd in front of him symbolises that his persona, his career and his music is bigger than anything that can be comprehended at a first glance.
However, while Mendes’ fan base is large and his impact is massive, there’s no grandiosity showcased in this documentary. No pizzazz, only simplicity – even in the most overwhelming moments. It was the perfect depiction to remind viewers that Mendes’ is just a guy who loves music. He is not superman, he is a man.
Philosophical and motivational, Mendes’ is like a youth pastor who almost religiously keeps preaching that we are all human. He is just a human, you are just a human and I am just a human. But with passion, dedication and a lot of hard work, we can be legends.
At the same time, the documentary also highlights that even legends go back to their childhood homes for a home-cooked meal, even legends miss hanging out with their friends on the turf, even legends call their mom in search of comforting words at the most difficult of times. Because legends are made out of humans, and no matter how legendary you may be, you will always be human.
A factor that also contributed to showing Mendes’ as just a modern boy who is hopelessly in love were the clips of him and his girlfriend, Camila Cabello, together.
Whether it was rehearsing on stage or embracing each other backstage, these intimate moments felt real. It was nice to see the pair support, understand and be there for each other as both lovers and artists. It wasn’t a cheesy facade put on for the fans who ship them, it was just them being partners.
Mendes kept pointing out that even with all the security, SUV’s and celebrity lifestyle, the “Señorita” singers always attempted to have a “normal” life together. They found comfort in each other and it was comforting for us to see them find pure love and intimacy in each other’s company.
Too much attention was not given “juicy” content, which is why we appreciated that even while it was made clear that Cabello was a constant part of Mendes’ life, their relationship did not steal the spotlight from the entire documentary.
A recurring theme was Mendes’ songwriting process leading to his upcoming album. From him experimenting with different chords, writing heartfelt lyrics to finding the perfect harmonies, Mendes’ was shown to be constantly immersing himself in his music. He was always trying to make a song that was better than his last hit.
And this is what we loved about the entire documentary. It wasn’t the glamour, romance or highlife – because there wasn’t much of that anyway. It was just the music, the fire in Mendes’ eyes when he spoke about vocals, instruments and melodies.
What we saw in the documentary is why people loved the pop star’s music so much; why they would relate to his music from their deepest cores. It was because his music is real, pure and true.
And that’s where the climax comes in, when Mendes’ had to cancel one of the show’s from his tour after he lost his voice. He couldn’t perform and we saw in that moment that Mendes’ life was based on his voice; his music.
Every other part of the documentary just briefly touched on various scenarios, but in this particular instance, we got the opportunity to go through what he went through. While he felt like he let down his fans, we realised how grateful we are for his art. How grateful we are for the passion and love he keeps giving the world through his music.
We’re grateful to have been given the opportunity to see how much time, effort and dedication Mendes puts into becoming the artist he is. However, it must be noted that since the documentary simply touches on his life, it does not give us anything solid to hold on to, just glimpses and glances of his day-to-day life.
Nonetheless, while these bits and pieces may not have been sufficient to satisfy the expectations of some fans, we believe that this helped the documentary maintain a philosophical feel to it, rather than it being like an invasive reality TV show that makes us feel like we’re prying.
While such little personal information would typically give us a lot to be in wonder about, this documentary does not leave us in wonder at all. Because Mendes shows us that there are no “wonders” – there are just imperfections that he turns into magic.
We definitely recommend watching “Shawn Mendes: In Wonder” – not only to understand Mendes better, but also to make you want to understand yourself better.