‘Shawn Mendes: In Wonder’ on Netflix: A Superstar Shows Us His Normal

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Shawn Mendes: In Wonder gave me non-stop, full-body chills the entire time I watched the music documentary, which will be streaming on Netflix beginning Monday, November 23. I would classify myself as a casual to moderate Mendes fan, but the combination of desperately missing live music (it’s not a concert doc but it’s got just enough to produce that tingle) and this doc hitting exactly all the right notes (pun intended) left me raptured. Directed by Grant Singer, known for directing music videos for The Weeknd, Lorde, and Sam Smith, and produced by Ben Winston, who is the undefeated master of this particular genre (and unsurprisingly and excitingly the executive producer of the Grammy Awards in 2021), this film was everything I wanted it to be. It should be noted that both Mendes and his longtime manager Andrew Gertler also serve as executive producers here so it’s a favorable look at the singer’s private life, sure, but that’s what I, and I’m sure many of his millions of international fans, craved.

The film does everything it needs to do early on, briefly explaining his rise to fame on Vine, jumping to footage that gives us a glimpse at a fully-packed, simply electric arena during his tour in 2019, and of course, allowing us to travel back home to Ontario with him to see where it all began. This doc has it all: shots of him singing acapella in an empty bathroom, an inside look at his writing process in the studio, and even adorable moments with his girlfriend Camilla Cabello, from kisses during soundcheck to the time where he muses from the backseat of a car that he’s unsure the songs he writes about her and their relationship could ever do it justice because capturing that special something is like trying to take a picture of the moon with your iPhone. I had to rewatch that one again because yes, Shawn, yes: I feel you!

I won’t be the only one to use the word intimate to describe this film, and not just due to the largely close-up shots of Mendes. It’s also not just the vulnerable look at his writing process or meeting his family and inner circle of friends or seeing inside his manifestation journal or hearing him gripe about new construction as he’s looking out from his Toronto condo to the Rogers Centre, one of the largest stadiums in Canada, where he will soon play to a packed house of friends, family, and fans. It’s also seeing that crowd of dancing, singing, jumping fans all around Mendes as he strums his guitar and sings his heart out in the spotlight. That may not initially seem intimate, but to each and every person in that room, and each and every person at home watching, it captures something so particularly special, that you should check your pulse if you aren’t feeling those full-body chills, which are just about as intimate as it gets.

Of course, these moments also lead up to the vocal strain that is chronicled towards the end of the doc, causing Mendes to cancel a show due to doctor’s orders, leaving him in tears, as well as literally every person that was mere minutes away from entering the stadium in Brazil. It’s about the only drama present here, but anything else would feel inauthentic anyway for a sweet, successful Canadian boy. What this doc does well without overly dwelling on it, is capturing the important moments to fans. What a life-changer a brief meet and greet can be: the pre-hugs with friends in line, that one special opportunity to connect with Mendes, and the post-tears that make you wonder if it all really happened. There’s a choice sampling to show they’re not all rosy moments: there are also intense tears and a dad in his car in the highway lane next to Mendes trying to snap a pic for his daughter.

At one point, Mendes worries that if people realize he is just a normal dude, will they still care about him? Not a problem, my guy! For one, he’s not normal. He’s got a voice and a talent for songwriting and a stage presence that eliminate that possibility. But what is captured here in 83 minutes, is his normal. Yes please, show us how that sausage is made in the studio by joining the backup singers during their session and vibing with producer Kid Harpoon (also a Harry Styles collaborator) and in this case, get us excited for that upcoming album (Wonder, available December 4). Tell us more about how you just want to watch movies with your parents and smoke a joint with your friends while looking up at the stars. Bring on the thoughts about living with your girlfriend for the first time, even if we don’t all have separate black cars waiting downstairs to transport us from our West Village apartments, and confirm that yes, you’re the kind of guy that sings to himself as the cameras are being set up for an interview, even if we don’t all get interviewed.

I’ve ascended those arena stairs after a show, my brain flooded with serotonin, as the crew starts to break down the setup, wondering, wow, what’s that guy doing when he leaves the stage? This doc shows us: he’s jumping in a car with tinted windows waiting in the garage to whisk him back out into the world, while we’re all being sardined through the exit. Shawn Mendes: In Wonder showed me what he wanted me to see, but guess what? It turns out, that’s exactly what I wanted to see too.

Where to stream Shawn Mendes: In Wonder

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