These days I usually have to avoid trailers and other promotional materials for new film releases, as the marketing departments are more interested in selling tickets than preserving the integrity of the storytelling. As a result, I often find plot points and narrative twists spoiled long before I have even entered the theater. However, despite having watched the trailer for Where’d You Go, Bernadette, I still had little idea what to expect from the film. Was it a comedy? Was it a drama? Was it a thriller? It ends up being all of these things, and also none of them.
Based on the bestselling novel by Maria Semple, the film is a quirky character piece at its center. Even with a few suspenseful plot twists, more than a few comedic situations and clever quips within the script, and even a couple heartbreakingly human moments, the focus always remains on the enigma that is Bernadette. Even more so than the question raised by the title. This also provides Cate Blanchett another opportunity to thrive in a female-driven narrative, not unlike her spectacular Academy Award-winning performance in Blue Jasmine. Bernadette is an easier character to like than that role, despite possibly being as flawed.
When the narrative begins, Bernadette is restlessly pacing through her daily routines as a mother and wife to a bright young teenage daughter (Emma Nelson) and brilliant husband (Billy Crudup) who is a successful tech developer for Microsoft. They live a semi-ordinary life in Seattle, despite Bernadette’s constant battles with the other neighborhood moms (led by Kristen Wiig, playing one of her go-to characters), and increasingly erratic behavior. After her daughter requests a family trip to Antarctica, Bernadette’s behavior only gets worse, leading to concerns over her mental health and physical wellbeing. It isn’t until more backstory is given that Bernadette’s mental state becomes fully clear.
Where’s You Go, Bernadette eventually leads to a mysterious disappearance, of sorts. Despite sharing a slight narrative similarity to Gone Girl, this story could not be more tonally different, and the mystery is revealed before long. More important to the film is the mystery of what brought Bernadette to the breaking point, and in that is a fantastic character study of a creative personality type. I’m hesitant to call this a slight film, but it does present its drama with the type of subtlety which often gets overlooked during award season.
The Blu-ray release for Where’d You Go Bernadette comes with a digital copy of the film, along with a few special features. There is a featurette about the adaptation of the book, as well as an additional promo feature about the title character and casting choices. The final extra is a gallery, including some behind the scenes footage of the production’s time in Greenland. The decision to film in Greenland rather than simply using a green screen is also the greatest argument for watching the film in high definition Blu-ray. The package also comes with a digital copy.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 4/10