Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me
Apple Original Films
Reviewed for Film Factual by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Alek Keshishian
Writer: Alek Keshishian, Paul Marchand
Screened at: Apple TV+, LA, 12/15/22
Opens: November 4th, 2022
In today’s world, the younger the celebrity, the easier it is to find much of their history captured on camera. Growing up with iPhones and other accessible technology means that fans – and those who aren’t too fond of a particular personality – have a wealth of content through which to learn about them. Being in the spotlight in that way can also be overwhelming, and it’s interesting when those who have trouble dealing with fame and other pressures choose to use their popularity to shift the conversation to topics that are personally important, and in some cases quite intimate, to them.
Selena Gomez, who turned thirty earlier this year, is a popular singer who has also recently developed an entirely new fan base thanks to her television work opposite Steve Martin and Martin Short in Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building. As she herself says in this film, her appearance makes her look much younger, presenting certain challenges to her credibility and prompting judgment from some. But, as this documentary’s subtitle indicates, there’s more to Gomez than just her look and her performance talents, and she’s set on sharing that with those who are interested in learning more about her.
Gomez opens up over the course of this film’s 95 minutes about being diagnosed with both lupus and bipolar disorder, two conditions that have affected her concerts and also her mental health, dictating in certain cases what her output can be. Gomez is initially reticent to discuss these things, both because they should be private and because they aren’t necessarily traits that she wishes to proudly display, but it becomes clear in watching this film that the need to speak out and show that no physical or mental health issue should be treated as shameful is ultimately most important.
This film follows the structure of other music documentaries like Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry and Ed Sheeran’s Songwriter, spending time following their subjects on tour and seeing how they interact with their closest associates and friends. They speak as if they’re not aware of the camera instead of only answering direct questions, which makes it possible to observe their natural behavior when they feel most relaxed and might be able to be themselves. It isn’t the most stirring approach since some scenes are not overly engaging, but that’s part of the process of capturing everyone at their most authentic and cooperative.
Though this film does not appear on the Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary Feature, it did earn a spot for its closing credits song, “My Mind and Me,” on the corresponding list for Best Original Song. That mention indicates support for Gomez as an artist but also an acknowledgment that her music, or this song at the very least, deals with what she experiences in life and attempts to communicate it to her fans and the general public, signaling that discussing what society may see as flaws is the best way to destigmatize them.
It’s a curious question whether those who already know and like Gomez will appreciate this eye-opening look at what goes into her artistry more than those who are either unfamiliar with or not fond of her work. Alek Keshishian, a frequent music video director who also helmed the 2006 romantic comedy Love and Other Disasters, seems most interested in getting to know Gomez than adding any particular to this chronicle of a chapter of her life. It succeeds most in blasting out a message of support for those struggling and feeling alone, making it clear that even those in the spotlight go through similar ordeals. As a documentary film, it doesn’t feel quite as urgent or noteworthy.
Story – B
Technical – B-
Overall – B