I’ve watched many films over the years but few have touched me like this one. My husband and I have for many years loved cooking shows, many of which have included Anthony Bourdain which got us hooked on his shows. He was an engaging, witty, and magnetic personality and his seeming joy of food and the cultures he visited made his shows especially enjoyable. His death was difficult to absorb, even for those of us who only watched him on the television. So when I heard about this film, I truly wanted to watch it, to get a better idea of what his life was about, to learn more about him as a person and because it gives us all an opportunity to see him one more time. This film is heartbreaking at times, you can see the pain and love on his friends’ faces but it is beautiful, poignant, truthful and an homage to Anthony Bourdain.
The film is a documentary, directed and produced by Morgan Neville, following the life and career of Anthony Bourdain who died by suicide on June 8, 2018, at the age of 61. The documentary features interviews with David Chang, Éric Ripert, as well as members of the production crew of Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown. It blends footage from those interviews with footage from both the show as well as interviews of Bourdain, including words he’d written in books and for his shows. Even the introduction is in Anthony Bourdain’s own voice, creating an intimate portrait of him, a deep dive into his personality and motivations that can only be afforded by the rich wealth of footage and writing he left behind.
One quality that makes the documentary so compelling and engaging, despite the knowledge that the man we are watching died, is the blend of interviews with individuals who were close to him with the footage from news footage, taped video, and clips of his show. The blend moves forward from when Anthony Bourdain wrote his first book and became a chef to his final days. Using all the footage and Anthony Bourdain’s own words, adds depth, allows viewers to experience his personality directly without filter from others, but the added insights from his friends allow us to see other facets of his personality. All of it combined together creates a warmth to the film and adds poignancy.
To me, it was truly difficult to review this film analytically. Much of what makes the film powerful is the dialogue and presentation of Anthony Bourdain, his thoughts, his ideas, his interactions with his friends and family. As we learn how he began making his show, it’s an exciting presentation. When his daughter is born and he becomes a father, the love in his eyes is easy to see. His passion for other cultures and food is clear in every scene, his drive to learn about other places part of what kept him moving. All the facets of his personality are on display and one thing rings true, you either love Anthony Bourdain or wildly disagree with him but there is no middle ground. It is impossible to feel nothing.
I loved the flow of how the film presents Anthony Bourdain and his life. Never is he presented as perfect. It is an honest, authentic portrayal of who he was, of his art, both his writing and his travel show. Even more impactful are the interviews with his friends, what they say about him, about his passions and his love for his daughter but they also discuss his struggles, his ups, and downs, how he changed over time, including how much fame changed his life, leaving him more closed in, with loneliness setting in. And while there was no note left behind, Anthony Bourdain was honest about his struggles in the past with addiction. How much impact loneliness might have had no one will truly know but what was beautiful was how his friends chose to celebrate his life in various ways rather than dwell on the loss.
This documentary resonated in so many ways. If you’ve dealt with loss, it is difficult to watch but worth it to celebrate a life that touched so many people. Not only were his friends impacted in positive ways by his life but so were so many people around the world by his shows and his words. This articulate and passionate man was not a man of the middle ground. He could be loving or fierce, honest but full of facets. There were so many aspects to his personality that the movie documents and even if you aren’t familiar with him, I feel like his magnetism and charm and the theme of suicide would still be impactful. It presents his ability as a storyteller, it highlights his charm and love for others, and if you loved his shows, this documentary is one that can’t be missed. It is honest and heartbreaking but the film is as powerful as the personality.
Rating: 5 out of 5 personality facets.
Official Website: Roadrunner Official Site | Roadrunner Tickets | Roadrunner Trailer
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” is made by CNN Films, directed by Morgan Neville, produced by Morgan Neville and Caitrin Rogers, distributed by Focus Features, and will premiere exclusively in theaters on Friday, July 16, 2021.
ONE-LINER: A documentary about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host, revered and renowned for his authentic approach to food, culture and travel.