From her Disney days playing the sassy Alex Russo to having her songs top charts and establishing a formidable presence on social media, Selena Gomez is one of the most famous stars of her generation. Because of her notability and her public struggles with chronic physical and mental illnesses, Gomez has the sort of story that could lead to a meaningful documentary. That’s exactly what Apple TV+’s “Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me,” released on Nov. 4, tries, but fails to do.
In some ways the documentary succeeds at its premise. Viewers see Gomez at her highest and at her lowest, following her journey from her tour in 2016 — cut short due to mental health struggles — to her comeback with the critically acclaimed album “Rare” in 2020. Throughout the movie, Gomez’s ongoing issues with bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression are on vivid display.
The film purposefully addresses mental health as a long-term challenge. Despite promoting what the media called a comeback with her release of the song “Lose You to Love Me,” her promotional press tour, shown in the movie, demonstrated that she still struggled with her mental health as she dove into a depressive spiral, questioning her life’s meaning. At the end of the film, Gomez is seen setting up a mental health fund and developing a mental health curriculum.
But at other times the documentary only scratches the surface of its more nuanced storylines.
In many moments, Gomez seems vulnerable — but they are fleeting. A number of the emotional scenes are interspersed by people in Gomez’s life describing how she feels. These comments have some value, but it doesn’t feel appropriate for them to be the main narrative surrounding Gomez’s relationship with her mental health.
This gets even more frustrating to watch when the voices making these comments are people unknown to the audience, seemingly providing nothing of substance. Raquelle Stevens — one of Gomez’s close friends — is the poster child for this problem in the film. We continuously see Stevens telling Gomez about how she should feel about her own health. For audience members who care about Gomez, it’s infuriating — but it also does nothing for the film. In fact, it distracts from some of its most emotional scenes.
The documentary also seems to skip over points during Gomez’s life that would offer interesting angles in favor of less interesting moments.
The documentary only has a few mentions of Gomez’s experience as a child actress and her Disney days. It also skips her involvement with the show “13 Reasons Why,” which was heavily criticized for its portrayal of mental health, and the music she put out after “Rare,” including her first studio album in Spanish and features in other artists’ songs.
Instead, we get a large section dedicated to Gomez’s trip to Kenya and her philanthropic efforts as well as constant references to the trip after it has happened. The trip serves a purpose in the overall plot — it showcases Gomez’s desire to help others and the aftermath when plans fail. But the documentary fails to give the trip any context, compared to the amount of time spent explaining her mental health activism, making the journey seem random. Plus, the whole trip comes off as emblematic of a potential savior complex, making audiences lose empathy for Gomez.
‘My Mind & Me’ is not a complete loss, but nonetheless it is a bit infuriating to watch. The documentary does show Gomez at her most vulnerable and brings out important themes surrounding mental health. Still, it misses so many of the points it could make, a disappointing outcome considering how intimate and personal the film is.