where'd you go, bernadette

★★

DIRECTOR: richard linklater (boyhood, last flag flying)
STARRING: cate blanchett, billy crudup, emma nelson and kristen wiig

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

Bernadette had it all - a loving husband and a brilliant daughter. When she unexpectedly disappears, her family sets off on an exciting adventure to solve the mystery of where she might have gone.

It goes without saying - Cate Blanchett is the best actress of her generation. This woman can do everything from Elizabeth I to Bob Dylan. But even though she and the rest of the cast are superb in Where’d You Go, Bernadette you can’t help feeling with a little tweak of the structure it could have gone from an alright film to a great film. 

 

Former architect Bernadette Fox seems to have it all - a beautiful home in Seattle, a successful and loving husband, and a brilliant teenage daughter who's about to attend boarding school. When Bernadette suddenly disappears without a trace, her concerned family sets off to solve the mystery of where she might have gone.

 

I guess one of the problems with Where’d You Go, Bernadette lies in my expectations of it. I’d seen the trailer (if you haven’t, don’t) because it made me expect that it would be kinda like A Simple Favour - wife goes missing and the film then follows the search for said wife. 

 

But Where’d You Go, Bernadette is anything but. It’s not an exciting search for where she’s gone - the first two acts are committed to exploring her home life and the last to actually looking for her. And we, as the audience (don’t worry I won’t spoil it) already kinda knows where she is. And it doesn’t take us more than five minutes to figure out where she’s gone. It’s not some big mystery at all. 

 

Instead it attempts to explore a woman who has lost her way in life, caught up in her mental health and unwellness, domestic life and the life of a mother. But even then the exploration of these themes seems structurally out of wack and teeters from slightly confusing structurally to just bizarre. The best scene of the film is between Blanchett and Fishburne and is beautifully played out between the two. 

 

What saves the film is the cast. Blanchett is of course magnificent. In the hands of a lesser actress Where’d You Go, Bernadette wouldn’t have been as good as it was. Billy Crudup gives a wonderfully, understated performance and newcomer Emma Nelson gives a terrific performance beyond her years.

With an unbalanced structure and a mystery that doesn’t really need solving, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is saved with a magnificent performance from its star Cate Blanchett. 

★★

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