Where’d You Go, Bernadette

An adaptation of the 2012 novel by Maria Semple, Cate Blanchett stars as Bernadette Fox in this eponymously-titled Richard Linklater film. After a decidedly obscure first trailer, the second trailer for Where’d You Go, Bernadette offers much more in the way of exposition and musical accompaniment that effectively imparts the reasoning behind its billing as “a mysterious comedy.”

The now-cliché mini-teaser sets us up for some rather generic but purposeful upbeat instrumental music at the outset—at 0:29 the studio card (Annapurna Pictures) and the first musical selection enter. For our mystery component of this “mysterious comedy,” we hear “She’s Not There,” from the record Begin Here by The Zombies, 1965. Clearly chosen for its theme, a bit of expository dialogue establishing Fox as a once-famed architect leads into the lyrics of the tune: “well no one told me about her,” which takes us to some dialogue by her daughter, who is searching for her mother in the event of her sudden disappearance. 

More expository scenes follow, and eventually the lyrics return with “too late to say you’re sorry,” which seems to comment on Fox’s foibles and mistakes prior. We learn that she feels a creative urge and that when it isn’t fulfilled, life went awry, effectively setting up the main conceit of the film. 

The song is rapidly interleaved with bits of dialogue (“try to find her” / “she’s not there”)—again, obviously and effectively mirroring the action as Bernadette concocts her plan to suddenly and mysteriously leave her family. 

Cleverly, the end of “She’s Not There” segues smoothly into the next song, “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men—a decidedly more contemporary track, of 2015 vintage. Crucially, it shares the tempo and to some extent the percussion and groove of The Zombies’ track. That being said, the overall atmosphere sounds much less mysterious and more uplifting, speaking more to the comedic side of the film. 

This shift in musical tone reflects a shift in perspective as the trailer proceeds to focus not on the mystery of Bernadette’s disappearance, but rather, celebrating the journey of her introspection and self-discovery through an optimistic lens, with title cards like “Find Your Passion” and “Find Your Purpose.” 

It’s a simple pitch, but it also tackles a universal and important subject—that the self-sacrifice resulting from parenting is profound. Through this trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette, we’re compelled to question the fairness of that truism, and whether it is a fact that needs to go unquestioned.

Musically, then, this second trailer is another two-part affair. What distinguishes it from similar trailers is its clever musical segue between the two tracks, as well as the increasingly active splicing of lyrics and dialogue that drives the dramatic arc of the first half. 

While the two songs chosen are rather different, the trailer’s edit leans into this distinction by focusing on narrative exposition in the first half, and on the feeling and sentiment of the protagonist in the second. This clear delineation is effective in helping the audio viewer feel invested in the film in relatively short order.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette arrives in theatres in August.

— Curtis Perry