Where’d You Go, Bernadette Parent Guide
Brilliant acting and a plot that asks questions of the viewer make for a movie that will be appreciated by adults more than kids.
Parent Movie Review
Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) is floundering. The brilliant architect hasn’t created anything for 20 years since experiencing a devastating loss in Los Angeles. Now living in Seattle, she has a decaying fixer-upper with vines growing under the carpet and a leaky roof. When she leaves her ramshackle house, she feuds with her neighbor (Kristen Wiig) – one of the popular (and catty) moms at the prestigious school their children attend. Bernadette’s marriage is stale, her anxiety is spinning out of control, and she obsesses over her hatred of Seattle. The one bright spot in her life is her daughter, Bee (Emma Nelson), with whom she shares a loving and joyful relationship. Then Bee announces that she’s chosen her reward for her perfect grades: a family trip to Antarctica.
Given that Bernadette’s anxiety verges perilously close to agoraphobia, the thought of making an extended journey on a boat with no chance to escape sends her into a tailspin. As Bernadette’s behavior becomes increasingly incomprehensible to her husband Elgie (Billy Crudup), he makes clumsy attempts to help her. And then… Bernadette disappears. Desperate to find her, Elgie and Bee travel to the ends of the earth.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an unusual film. Its main character is a middle-aged woman with significant mental health issues, which are blessedly not treated as comic fodder. While director Richard Linklater has made room for humor in the film, no one is laughing at Bernadette – her struggles are treated with empathy and respect. And the confusion her husband faces in the face of his often skewed view of her behavior is also treated kindly: he is never shown as a villain despite his sometimes inaccurate perceptions. Best of all, this is a film that celebrates families and the choices we make to hold our families together, even when individuals change and evolve over time.
The film also earns points for the quality of the production. The sets are excellent, and the shots of Antarctica’s otherworldly beauty are mind-boggling. But the best part of the film is Cate Blanchett’s performance. With a movie built around a quirky main character, acting is critical and Ms. Blanchett hits this one out of the park. Bernadette’s exhaustion, neuroticism, anxiety, frustration, fear, trauma, sadness – all are somehow brought to life in this brilliant performance.
Fortunately, family viewers won’t have too many content issues to worry about. There is a scattering of coarse insults and a half dozen profanities in the film, including two sexual expletives. There is also a brief scene of a teen using drugs and more extensive discussion of Bernadette’s hoarding of prescription drugs and her efforts to get a powerful drug to treat seasickness. The biggest concern viewers are likely to have is Bernadette’s choice to disappear. Is she simply running away rather than facing and fixing the difficult situation she’s in? Or is she getting some distance to find perspective on, and direction for, her life? The question of “Why’d you go, Bernadette?” is likely to be more interesting than “Where’d you go, Bernadette?” And trying to answer it will provide food for thought for any adult who’s struggling to find balance in the chaos and complexity of life. Which is pretty much all of us.Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, and Judy Greer. Running time: 109 minutes. Theatrical release August 16, 2019. Updated August 16, 2019
Watch the trailer for Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Rating & Content Info
Why is Where’d You Go, Bernadette rated PG? Where’d You Go, Bernadette is rated PG by the MPAA for some strong language and drug material.
Violence: A woman accidentally runs over another woman’s foot. Women yell at each other.
Sexual Content: A married couple kisses on a few occasions.
Profanity: There are two sexual expletives used in a non-sexual context, two scatological curses, and two terms of deity in the movie. There are also some coarse insults.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A minor character is briefly shown smoking drugs. There is reference to his marijuana habit. A main character hoards prescription medications. She tries to get powerful drugs to control seasickness. There is very minor social drinking.
Page last updated August 16, 2019
Where’d You Go, Bernadette Parents' Guide
Bernadette’s mentor tells her “People like you need to create. If you don’t create you become a menace to society.” Do you think that’s true? What are some of the barriers that stand in the way of following your passion? What can you do to make time for the activities that fill you with energy and enthusiasm? How can you balance these activities with your responsibilities?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This movie is based on the novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.
Gretchen Rubin felt like something was missing in her life. So she set a goal to try a new way to be happy by following one piece of advice – sleep more, sing, clean closets – each month. The result is her bestselling non-fiction book, The Happiness Project.
Does Bernadette’s anxiety disorder feel eerily familiar? If you’re looking for book-based help for anxiety, try Joshua Fletcher’s Anxiety: Panicking about Panic: A Powerful Self-help Guide for Those Suffering from an Anxiety or Panic Disorder. Psychologist David D Burns has also written When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy that can Change Your Life. If you’re looking for something a little more casual, Patricia Collard’s The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace should fit the bill.
Are you feeling like you’re stuck in a rut or have lost your creative mojo? To “unfreeze” your creative self, try Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal. You won’t need to fear mistakes here – just let loose and see what happens. Or you can begin with Meera Lee Patel’s Start Where You Are, an interactive journal that will kick start your creativity. You can also use creativity to soothe anxiety. Check out Anxious Art: A Creativity Journal to Help Calm You by Yaddyra Peralta and Elina Diaz. If you want to jump straight into art projects, you can use 101 Mixed Media Techniques: Master the fundamental concepts of mixed media art as a guide. Written by Cherril Doty, Suzette Rosenthal and Isaac Anderson, this helpful book provides basic instruction into quick, messy art projects. You can also go deeper and grab a copy of Tamara Laporte’s Create Your Life Book:Mixed-Media Art Projects for Expanding Creativity and Encouraging Personal Growth.
Viewers intrigued by architecture can get a global view of amazing buildings in Jonathan Glancey’s Architecture: A Visual History.
If you loved the scenes shot in Antarctica, you’ll want Antarctica by Arnold Zageris or Antarctica by Yves Paccalet and Patrick De Wilde.
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For another story about a main character who marches to his own drummer, check out The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Edward Scissorhands tells the tale of a man who desperately wants to create, but whose hands are made of scissors, making it difficult to achieve his dreams.
Suffering from a chronic stutter, Prince Albert is terrified of speaking in public. How he overcomes his fear and ascends to the throne is the story behind The King’s Speech.