In 2013 acclaimed Danish Director Nicolas Winding Refn released his next film Only God Forgives. It was a follow up to his last outing in Drive, which astounded people and elevated his career to new heights. So, of course, the pressure was on him to make everyone happy and continue his newfound success. During the making of his new film Refn’s wife, Liv Corfixen, decided to film the entire production process and to see how his husband is coping mentally. While My Life Directed does showcase some of the problems affecting Refn it mostly fails making it meaningful.
Almost immediately you are going to learn that Refn is a bit eccentric. Whether it is asking Alejandro Jodorowsky for a tarot card reading or how he compares violence with sex he definitely helps the stereotypical view on how Directors are perceived. Also, as an aside, it is nice to see that Ryan Gosling respects Refn’s craft and tries to be as friendly as possible with his children. All of this on screen, whether good or bad, has an original score by Cliff Martinez which is never a bad thing. It is always difficult to describe Martinez’s work because it is so unique from other composers but rest assured he hits the right tone with his haunting melodies.
My Life Directed has two themes and both ultimately fail to showcase either. The first is how stressful Refn is while making Only God Forgives. Like any film we do see complications whether it be major or minor but we never get in depth with these issues. Usually we will see Refn pacing back and forth and then get some slight commentary in the next scene. Having that, and showing his bare chest at any opportunity after filming, is not even close getting into the mind of a filmmaker. Also, a good chunk of Refn’s worries seems to be how critics/bloggers are going to react to his film. This may be an issue with all filmmakers but that is hardly pulse pounding material to document.
The second theme of My Life Directed is how filming Only God Forgives puts a stress on the marriage between Refn and Corfixen. Like showing his stress, Corfixen documents some of these arguments and moments of clarity but they are quickly resolved or ultimately not an issue. There are good moments recorded such as Refn failing to bond with his daughter in a car or having Refn take over the camera for a scene making fun of his wife documenting him. Ultimately it feels all skeletal because Refn seemed to refuse letting his wife go more in-depth. There is literally a moment where Corfixen addresses this but never gets adequately explained which sums up the documentary.
Liv Corfixen definitely had something going in recording her husband during a tumultuous period in his life. Unfortunately she either does not go far enough or was not allowed by Refn to go any more than the surface. Considering his mental state at the time of filming Only God Forgives we could have seen how success not only makes you unsure of creating your next film but also how it strains your relationships. As it is My Life Directed is a decent, but flatlined documentary that makes no sense to release theatrically. If anything it will make for a solid supplementary extra for an Only God Forgives DVD re-release.