SELENA GOMEZ: MY MIND & ME is a beautiful documentary about the battles in our heads
This year, thanks to Andrew Dominik’s controversial film, new discussions about Marilyn Monroe has started. About her phenomenon, her mental state, her private life. How she was turned into a product. It rhymes strongly with the documentary film about Selena Gomez reviewed here. Another beautiful and talented woman whose fame and recognition frontally collided with personal problems. Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me, however, is a much more valuable film than the aforementioned Blonde. This is because it tells a true story. And it does so with the help and consent of its title character. At the same time, this does not mean that it becomes a PR laurel. On the contrary. It is striking in its level of intimacy and pain.
Selena Gomez probably needs no introduction to anyone. This year the star celebrated her 30th birthday, and she has been in front of the camera since she turned seven. She is a singer, actress and producer. The star of the cooking programme Selena + Chef. A philanthropist and activist.
Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me is not a typical biographical film, in which we learn the facts about the star’s life from birth through all the career milestones. The authors of the documentary show us a relatively short part of Gomez’s life: from 2019 to the outbreak of the pandemic and the announcement of lockdown in the United States. In doing so, they focus on her physical and mental health problems, revisiting the star’s past mainly as part of her trips to her hometown, and showing her career also in the context of her mental breakdown and recovery.
When I write above about the star’s health issues, I’m referring to her immune disease known as lupus and, perhaps most importantly, bipolar affective disorder, i.e. the mental illness popularly known as bipolar.
In the very first minutes of the movie, Selena Gomez talks directly to the camera about living with bipolar disorder, how despicable her behavior was to her family, and how relieved she and her loved ones felt after the diagnosis. Thanks to the camera accompanying her later in the film, we can observe her panic attacks, anxiety, crying. During a trip to Kenya shown in the documentary, Gomez meets with a young woman who tells her about moments when she had suicidal thoughts; in response to her story, the star says she knows perfectly well what it means to want to hurt herself.
Gomez’s struggles with the paparazzi are also hard to watch. The constant hounding by the glares, the shouting, the blocked passages and the constant questions about her former partner, Justin Bieber. I even found the singer’s trip to the UK frightening, where we see the subsequent meetings with the media changing like a kaleidoscope. Interviews, talks, quizzes and popular YouTube games. Behind the scenes, we see Gomez’s growing frustration, her blank stare in response to inappropriate, often very intimate questions. She speaks directly to her friends about the time wasted, about how no one cares about her answers. Even more bitter context is provided by Gomez’s whispered at one point “I feel like I’m back at Disney” (editor’s note: her career breakthrough was her participation in the Wizards of Waverly Place series).
Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me, however, is not only a story about illness and the shadows of fame. It’s also a story about the support of family and friends, about the need to normalize mental problems, about picking up after successive bouts, and about the power that comes from understanding what you feel, who you are and who you want to be.
And also that beautiful side of being an idol, a star, a role model. The endearing moments of Selena Gomez’s interaction with her fans give the viewer no less powerful emotions than those in which we see her extremely unhappy.
The documentary somewhat by the way provides a rather interesting insight into American society and its lower strata (as part of Gomez’s journey to the places where she grew up). But it is also simply a superbly made production that impresses with its editing, choice of material, music, narrative coherence and consistency.
It is simply one of the best films of this year. A deeply empathetic, icing-free and much-needed cinema about the daily battle with the demons in our heads. And about the fact that, to quote the main character, no one but ourselves can tell us that we can’t do something.