‘Shawn Mendes: In Wonder’ is the new Netflix documentary covering Shawn Mendes’ 2019 world tour, the recording of his upcoming album Wonder and the physical and emotional toll of his rise to stardom. If you’re already a big Shawn Mendes fan, you’ll likely walk away from In Wonder with a deeper appreciation for the Canadian pop superstar. If you’re new to Shawn Mendes and his music, it serves as a great infomercial and not too much more than that. Touted as an “unguarded” look at the life of Mendes, In Wonder feels like a glossy carefully constructed look at a hardworking pop star in transition – eager to show us how serious he is about his craft and also how much he’s grown since bursting onto the scene as a teen.
The doc starts out in Sao Paulo, Brazil with a montage of Shawn Mendes in the shower and lingering shots of his bare upper body before cutting to a crestfallen Mendes using the text-to-voice feature on his phone because he blew his voice out on tour. A jarring transition but it sets us up for what’s to come. The Pickering native got his start doing cover scenes on the gone but not forgotten social media platform Vine. He was soon discovered by his manager via his cover of ‘Say Something’ by A Great Big World. By 15, Mendes was performing at his first concert in Toronto. Everyone around him believed in him, his family, teachers, friends, etc.
A major selling point of In Wonder is that we’ll get a glimpse into the pop star relationship of Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello. We see the pair rehearsing for their joint performance at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards. Camila, formerly of the girl group Fifth Harmony, is a successful solo act and has paired up with Mendes for a few successful duets including ‘Señorita’ which dominated music charts around the world in 2019. Mendes mentions that the pair had been living together in New York while promoting songs ‘Senorita’ & ‘If I Can’t Have You’. What we’re shown of the relationship feels very managed and safe and doesn’t go much deeper than what they give us in their press appearances or through the tabloids.
However, In Wonder does have its real moments. The doc is at its most exciting and revealing when Shawn Mendes is back at home in the Greater Toronto Area for a few days leading up to his show at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. We’re introduced to his best friend Brian who keeps him grounded in reality. We get to see his condo in downtown Toronto, see him running around in a field in the suburban city of Pickering, dropping f-bombs, talking about smoking joints, and genuine interactions with his family. It’s the first time in the documentary where it feels like we get a genuine glimpse of Shawn Mendes without the pop star artifice, rather just as a regular goofy twenty-something guy from Toronto.
Towards the end of the doc, we go back to Brazil to see Shawn Mendes giving it his all performing for a sea of excited fans. In a moment that feels like a requirement for all pop star documentaries, we see hysterical crying fans approaching him in the street. From there we see the vocal scare, the worst thing that can happen to a touring singer, which results in two big Brazil concerts being canceled. In a genuinely touching moment, we see Mendes on facetime with his mom for some much needed emotional support. To wrap up the documentary, we see the final recording sessions for Shawn Mendes’ upcoming fourth studio album Wonder which is set to be released on December 4, 2020.
Rabid Shawn Mendes fans will love this documentary. The brief bits of wonderfully shot performance footage, appearances from Camila Cabello and getting to see Mendes in the shower and in just his Calvin Klein underwear will be more than enough to tide them over. As with most pop star documentaries done with the involvement and authorization of the subject, Shawn Mendes is an executive producer on this one, there’s a lot of talk of vulnerability and scratching beyond the surface but ultimately we are only being shown what has been approved for us to see and there’s still a carefully crafted narrative in place. While In Wonder may feel like it missed its stated goal of appearing “unguarded”, it totally nails its depiction of a pop star at the top of his game with a new album on the way.
In Wonder is available to stream now on Netflix.