Justin Bieber rises in the morning and prepares for a hike with his wife, Hailey Bieber (formerly Baldwin). He holds up a camera as the pair breathe in the crisp morning air, cracking jokes about his vlogging skills along the way. As they reach a lookout point, Hailey asks her husband to share his 2021 goals — suddenly, the screen fades to black, postponing Bieber’s answer indefinitely. While this anticipatory opening sequence of “Justin Bieber: Our World” attempts to foreshadow an authentic glimpse into Bieber’s life, the documentary very quickly derails from this initially earnest moment.
Released Oct. 8 and directed by Michael D. Ratner, the Amazon Original film “Justin Bieber: Our World” peers into the 27-year-old singer’s life as he prepares for his first full-length concert in three years. Highlighting Bieber’s 2020 New Year’s Eve livestream concert on the Beverly Hilton Hotel’s roof, Ratner depicts Bieber preparing to perform in front of 240 people who would watch from the comfort of their rooms. The film intersperses live concert recordings with behind-the-scenes footage, promising a closer look at Bieber’s trials both in his work and personal life. Instead, however, viewers watch Bieber as he comes to an unprecedented realization: COVID-19 makes life difficult.
Stretching out its 95-minute runtime, Ratner frames his documentary through the harsh realities of the pandemic. A montage of news reports and empty cities illustrates how dire the situation is — just in case the viewer isn’t aware. This setup seems to prepare watchers for a more serious subject matter, but instead, they watch Bieber prepare for an intimate concert in one of the richest area codes in the country.
By the time viewers see the 15th person with a swab up their nose, it becomes clear that Bieber wants people to know his team is being COVID-19 safe. At one point, his choreographer Nick DeMoura tests positive for the virus, but nothing significant comes from this scene except for a brief two weeks when the dancer must work from home. At the end of the day, the film’s emphasis on the pandemic does little except remind viewers of the realities they already face every day.
Though the film goes behind the scenes and into the musician’s personal life, each segment feels harshly delineated, jumping from plotlines about Bieber’s family life to his leadership skills to his growth over time. Instead of painting a genuine image of the pop star, the documentary crafts an overly polished portrait that feels rigid and surface-level.
Yet, the film does have a saving grace: Bieber’s infectious energy. His liveliness during his concert performances propels him through hits both new and old. Dynamic camera shots capture his vivacity throughout performing hits such as “Boyfriend” and “Intentions,” contrasting the stillness of the glimmering Los Angeles cityscape behind the stage.
It is also through Bieber’s live performances that the viewer gets a sense of just how much he loves his wife. He gives her a heartfelt shoutout before launching into a high-energy performance of his love song “Holy.” His vocals glide effortlessly over the accompaniment as he acts out the lyrics: “Runnin’ to the altar like a track star,” he sings, playfully running across the stage. From her balcony, Hailey extends her arms in the warm embrace of an air hug. The moment is genuine and tender, contrasting otherwise stiff and limited interactions between the two.
The film concludes by circling back to the beginning: Viewers finally get to hear Bieber’s intentions for 2021. Given the buildup, it is natural to expect something profound — or, at least, something that will clarify the main takeaway of the documentary. Instead, Bieber gives a vague response about wanting to set goals and to have fun while doing them.
This scene underscores the documentary’s central issue: Its promising setup disappointingly falls into empty platitudes. “Justin Bieber: Our World” may begin with good intentions, but it ultimately fails to find its purpose.