‘Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me’ Review: a Melancholic Insight to a Global Superstar

A documentary this honest? Rare.

As far as pop stars go, Selena Gomez has always been an undeniable multi-hyphenate: not just a musician, but a dancer, actress, philanthropist, and business owner. Now, Gomez can add another title to her long list of achievements: documentarian. Though she’s no stranger to being on film, her latest project is Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me, an honest, bombshell-laden documentary which hits Apple TV+ this Friday. Though at times the film’s relentless onslaught of tragedy (though true to life) can make for a laborious and one-note viewing experience, there’s enough transparency and vulnerability to forgive the structural problems and melodrama.

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It’s no secret that Selena Gomez has had her share of public scandals and headline-making moments. After all, if you’re in the limelight from the age of 10 (her first television role was on Barney & Friends, the filming of which she recollects fondly here) scrutiny is sure to follow you wherever you go. My Mind & Me is very much a documentary for those already familiar with Gomez’ work and her tumultuous media moments. The film moves at a breakneck pace and doesn’t take much time to dive into the milestones in Gomez’ life themselves, instead opting to explore the impact such frequent turmoil had on her mental health.

For those unfamiliar with Gomez’s career outside of her work as a musician, she’s perhaps best known as sarcastic teen witch Alex Russo on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, a role that won the hearts of many fans but planted Gomez squarely under the banner of ‘Disney popstar.’ It’s clear from My Mind & Me that (like many former Disney child actors) shirking the Disney branding/label is a challenge that plagues Gomez even a near decade and a half after her time on the series—an insecurity worsened by Gomez’ pre-existing mental and physical health conditions.

Gomez has been incredibly public in recent years about both her struggles with Lupus (her stand-and-stir cooking show Selena + Chef, often features close-ups of Gomez’ shaking hands when working in the kitchen) and her mental health issues. But while until now her public persona has been built around embracing her strength and persevering, My Mind & Me gives a newer, much rawer angle to Gomez’s relationship with her multiple life-altering medical conditions.

My Mind & Me makes no mistake about it: Selena Gomez’s struggles with mental health have been a debilitating force in her life that prompted several professional and personal challenges, the least of which was being forced to cancel a global tour midway through. If you’re an avid gossip column reader, you’ll already be familiar with her very public ‘mental breakdown,’ and the documentary emphasizes—by secondary account, not firsthand witness—the severity of her struggles during that time.

It’s startlingly open to see a celebrity not just admit to struggling with mental health, but to emphasize how debilitating her mental health struggles truly are. It’s certainly a far cry from the polished and professional Selena speaking at mental health fundraisers and charity galas, many of which the documentary features. Her willingness to address the disparity between a carefully devised public response to her mental health versus the reality of her situation is an intriguing and commendable element of the documentary. It helps make My Mind & Me a source of insight into Gomez’ life, not just a ‘greatest hits’ reel of her career and public persona.

At the same time, though, the style of filmmaking lingers so frequently on Selena in her ‘down’ moments—making sure the viewer knows just how hard she had it—that it becomes difficult to savor and celebrate how she has persevered, grown, and blossomed. It’s certainly understandable—after all, this is a documentary, and viewers are tuning in to witness the more vulnerable, unseen moments of Gomez’ life—but the film’s sole focus on her suffering makes for a stiflingly monotonous viewing experience.

That’s not to say the documentary is devoid of upbeat or optimistic moments. My Mind & Me does take the time to uplift Gomez’ inner circle, and note how crucial her bonds with friends and family are to helping her through the more tumultuous periods of her life. Still, even in more celebratory moments, the film has a melancholy tone. Much of the more upbeat, reflective moments center on Gomez’ philanthropic work with the We Charity, only for Gomez (along with the rest of the world) to find out the charity is embroiled in scandal.

In terms of style, My Mind & Me‘s cinematography isn’t particularly revolutionary or memorable, although it does feature an original single by Selena and a score by composer Matt Kidd. The one recurring attempt at filmmaking flare is a series of black and white clips of Selena narrating journal entries, set to thunderstorm soundscapes.

The purpose of these sequences is unclear, beyond finding a way for these journal entries to be shown to the viewer outside of Gomez simply reading them to the camera. The sheer volume of moody stylistic elements tilts the filmmaking from impactful to obvious and melodramatic, but the content of the journal entries is admittedly insightful.

My Mind & Me is a peculiar documentary in that it isn’t particularly kind or complimentary to Gomez as an artist or a person. Instead, it puts her innermost struggles and greatest turmoils on full display for the viewer, entirely embracing the pain that has plagued her career. Whether that somber lens towards Gomez and her career was intended (or effective) is certainly worth discussing, but My Mind & Me is a unique and thorough examination of Selena Gomez and her most devastating moments.

(featured image: Apple TV+)


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Author
Lauren Coates
Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. Besides writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, RogerEbert, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates