A Fuller Life is a family affair, produced and directed by Samantha Fuller, in honor of her late father, Samuel Fuller, the great journalist-turned-filmmaker (Forty Guns, Pickup on South Street, The Naked Kiss). The documentary is segmented by chapters narrated by the likes of those who starred in his films or were simply admirers. Taking excerpts from his autobiography, A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting, and Filmmaking, every word is his -- other than the spirited introduction by Samantha and the B-roll of the narrators talking about him over the credits.
Two things are clear in this documentary. The first is that Samuel Fuller was brilliant, optimistic, talented -- an auteur in every right -- and well deserving of all the praise and admiration he inspired. The second is that this is a product of a first-time director, not quite experienced enough to take full advantage of the medium or know how to bring every element together. Inherently, because of its design, the doc plays like an abridged audiobook, the visuals almost an afterthought -- a shame, as Samantha includes some rare, never-before-seen footage. The teasing tidbits from those who knew him and worked with him at the end only serve to make us long for more of such insights, particularly from Samantha herself.
Still, A Fuller Life is an earnest tribute by a daughter to her father. As Samuel writes in his autobiography around the time of release of The Big Red One, "I wanted my girl to be proud of her daddy." The reverse, as can be seen in this film, is true as well.