“You’re successful. And I’m successful. And I’m wondering: are you happy?”
These are words that hauntingly echoed — as every line he speaks now does, as if he’s somehow reaching us from beyond — by Anthony Bourdain in both the trailer and the final product of the upcoming documentary about his life and death, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. But really, they’re words that echo through our lives so frequently that they’ve come to define the human experience: What is success? What is happiness? Are they connected? In the case of Anthony Bourdain, Roadrunner knows the answer and shows audiences they should, too.
It’s now been more than three years since the death of Anthony Bourdain, and still — whether it be due to the lack of closure from his noteless suicide or the almost omnipresent way in which he and his work saturated into our lives over the last 20 years — it just doesn’t feel quite real. How could a man whose very existence was defined by living life to its fullest now cease to exist at all? How could someone seemingly in the midst of their golden years decide that now is the time to draw the curtain? How? Why? What next? Roadrunner, lovingly directed by Academy Award-winning Won’t You Be My Neighbor? filmmaker Morgan Neville, attempts to answer those questions by retracing the arc of Bourdain’s 21st-century rise by positing that maybe the warning signs were there all along. That maybe the causes of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide aren’t the mystery we believe them to be. It’s a delicate story to tell but Roadrunner, which shows its hand in its very title, does so with the type of verve and blunt honesty that would’ve made the man himself proud.
Tony Bourdain wasn’t so much traveling as he was running: from himself and from everyone. From his past and his future. From everything, from nothing. From love and to it. But what Roadrunner so beautifully realizes is that it was in this very need for escape that made Bourdain who he was — it’s what made his life such a breathtaking whirlwind of experience and passion and journey. Roadrunner is a testament to that idea as it plunges fans, maybe for the final time, into the forever intoxicating life and death of Anthony Bourdain. If you’re someone who loved him while he was here and perhaps even more now that he’s gone, it’s a dive worth taking regardless of how painful it may be, as was always the case when it came to the late, beloved modern-day renaissance man.
When you lose someone, regardless of the circumstances, you’re left with questions. How? Why? What next? In Roadrunner, those very same questions are asked not of Tony Bourdain’s death, but of his life. Three years gone, we know how Anthony Bourdain died, how his life ended, and that we’ll probably never get those answers we’re seeking. Instead, Roadrunner shows us how and why Bourdain’s life came to be: he was always asking, for better or for worse, what next?
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain Review: ★★★★★
‘Roadrunner’ will hit theaters on July 16 before it begins streaming on HBO Max at a later date.