Dreams of a Life (2011) Poster

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Compelling and thought provoking brilliance
tipps56112 January 2012
I remember learning about the discovery of Joyce Vincent's body a few years ago and thinking what a sad and disturbing news story it was, almost beggaring belief in present day civilised society. This superbly and sensitively crafted drama documentary from Carol Morley answers a mere handful of the many questions which inevitably followed while inevitably producing a myriad of others.

It is a salutary reminder that life is both precious and mysterious, things are often not what they seem and how we all think we know our friends but in reality our comprehension is limited to what we are actually permitted to see and understand.

The most refreshing and at the same time most disturbing impression given is that Joyce's friends appear to be genuine, caring people but despite this, she still slipped through the emotional and physical net which binds humanity together.

The power of this film makes the loss almost as tangible to the audience as it must have felt to Martin. It reminds us that although time is often regarded as a great unhurried and invisible healer, it can also be corrosively destructive.

Plenty to contemplate here...
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Saddening and engaging despite not offering more
bob the moo10 March 2013
About a decade ago I worked in the offices of a local council's Environmental Health department and, among the jobs that fell into this department was that of dealing with the issue of people who had been found dead and didn't have anyone to make the arrangements. It didn't happen too often but occasionally the office would be used as a temporary store for loads of books, VHS tapes or other hoarded possessions of people who had died alone and seemed to have nobody. I never attended the funerals of these people but colleagues who did the arrangements generally reported a few friends or family but that was all. Despite never knowing these people, I had made the decision that these were sad lonely people who lived alone forever, knew nobody and had always been that way.

In a way, when we enter this film and hear about Joyce, this is the same impression it is very easy to have; she died alone and lay undiscovered for three years Three years with nobody anywhere really making an effort to find out why they hadn't seen her for a while. The lack of information in the paper about this person is what led Morley to make this documentary and she does unearth a lot and a great deal of it shows that Joyce was not some introverted hermit but in some ways just the opposite. It was clear from the detail that she did carry a great sadness within her, but at the same time she was active socially, had famous connections in the music industry and was a very attractive woman. The film builds this picture well – even surprising her friends with some details, but it never really gets to a point or to answers and this is the main problem with the film.

On the whole it does engage by virtue of how saddening it is and in the way it forces the viewer to ask questions of (and about) ones self, but this isn't quite enough to make the film fill 90 minutes. The details of Joyce's life only increased the questions but the film doesn't lay blame anywhere and doesn't investigate how anyone can go unnoticed for three years. This side of things isn't as good and it is a real shame as it could have had more of an impact. The subject itself is fascinating though and the mix of interviews and dramatized moments does work pretty well – with some interesting characters in her life and some great moments acted out by Ashton. The direction and look of the film is mostly good – it is very lively and good looking, not unlike the Joyce we see portrayed as well.

Dreams of a Life is a depressing and engaging film thanks to the subject matter and the way it is delivered, but it doesn't go far enough. It doesn't have an overall point in particular and it leaves as many questions as it answers; the viewer is left with a sense of sadness which is worthy but not a real understanding of anything beyond this one person. I liked it for what it did well, but the gaps are disappointing.
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A Troubling Tale
SpitztheGreat5 August 2012
At its core this is a story about a very lonely person, one that we all may know, and how she fell through the cracks of life. One character sums it up perfectly: "It's strange really, it's like she never really existed but was just a figment of our imagination. She was a story. Someone that we all just made up; partly because we just let someone disappeared and die. Someone that we all thought we cared about." A few people have mentioned that this documentary is weak because Joyce, and her story, are mundane and not remarkable." They're absolutely correct, but I see this as a strength for the documentary. Joyce, and her "friends", are not remarkable in any way. Instead, they are normal people who lived their life around someone that was almost a ghost.

It's remarkable to watch these people recite, and discover, how little they knew this woman that they considered a friend. And yet these friends, or interviewees, are the best window into Joyce's life. As the title of the film suggests it really is like Joyce only existed in a dream. Her past and future never existed and she was only a shell of a person. I was reminded strongly of the movie Inception while thinking about Joyce. Not to ruin Inception for anyone, but there's a conversation where one character says to another "I can't imagine you with all your complexity, all your perfection and imperfection. You're just a shade..." That's what Joyce was, only a shade of a real person.

If there's a lesson to take from this movie it's that we need to do a better job of keeping in contact with our friends. I don't know what happened in Joyce's life that left her to die alone, but no one should have that fate.
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Haunting,Compelling and Deeply Moving Drama Documentary
BJJManchester17 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Through interviews and reconstructions,DREAMS OF A LIFE tells the tragic story of Joyce Carole Vincent,who died alone apparently in her North London bedsit in December 2003 surrounded by unopened Christmas presents,but was not discovered until 2006,when bailiffs entered the property,finding her decomposed remains with the TV still switched on.

When it was initially reported by the UK press,there were little details of her life and no photographs published.Filmmaker Carole Morley read about the story,and began to place adverts in local newspapers asking who knew her, and try and build Joyce's life story and to why it ended so tragically.

It took many years for all the pieces to come together,and eventually,various friends,work colleagues and partners came forward, and with their recollections and memories paint a portrait of a vivacious,beautiful,sociable but troubled and reticent young woman who could be the life of any party, yet always seemed to hold herself back from commitment to marriage,work or habitats.There are moments of humour but this is essentially a very sad story,with as many questions unanswered as answered.None of Joyce's remaining close family are present, this being her four sisters.Her mother died when she was only 11, and her father was a transient presence in her childhood, seemingly more interested in carousing and womanising and explaining her mother's death in a flippant,insensitive manner.

Her adult life parallelled that of her Father's in being nomadic and unsettled, with her first serious boyfriend Martin being no oil painting (as he admitted) but thoroughly decent and personable nonetheless, though with her exotic Indian/Afro-Caribeaan good looks always attracting attention from men,sometimes appreciated,often unwanted,made her a difficult woman to keep, and in the end, there was a parting of the waves.

An attempt at becoming a soul singer failed, though this led her to another partner, who was involved in the music industry and didn't care much for her singing but cared very much for her as a person. This relationship broke down,as did another attempt with Martin, and after boarding with a succession of friends, she ended up in a modest bedsit (with unsubstantiated rumours that she was attacked by another partner), unable to conquer various personal problems and bad memories, her death shrouded in as much mystery and contradictions as her short life brought.

The film itself is as much as a detective story as a biography of a seemingly unremarkable life, and significantly none of Joyce's family take part in the interviews.It could have been the case that the reconstructions, perhaps mostly speculative, could have been an unnecessary distraction and ill-judged, yet thanks to sensitive handling, are very touching if not poetic, and acted with considerable style by Zawe Ashton, almost totally voiceless except for a few moments of singing, portraying Joyce through body and facial expression with total conviction.This is all very well juxtaposed with the interviewees thoughts involved, never lapsing into mawkishness or sentiment. And if even the most stone-hearted of you don't go misty-eyed when Joyce (as played by Ms Ashton) part-sings/mimes a particular soul ballad into a hair brush, you are not human.

DREAMS OF A LIFE should be a lesson to us all, to contact family, loved ones or friends if absent for a while, just to see if all is OK.How come that a woman with so much to live for died in one of the World's biggest metropolises with no-one noticing for nearly three years? Is that sense of community gone now because of greater selfishness in our more dehumanised,materially-obsessed World? Could such a dreadful event occur again? Such questions linger in the mind long after seeing the film, which is totally compelling and absorbing from first to last shot, and although a few scenes look a trifle misguided, perhaps due to the modest budget involved, Carole Morley has produced a wholly memorable and deeply touching film with the right amount of dignity and respect towards it's subject.Joyce Vincent passed away in very distressing and tragic circumstances, but DREAMS OF A LIFE is a fitting tribute to a young woman who was liked and loved by so many but perhaps no one ever fully knew.

RATING:8 and a half out of 10.
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Joyce Carol Vincent - may she RIP (slight spoilers)
PoppyTransfusion27 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The film's UK release date coincided with Christmas 2011, which was deliberate as the subject of the film, Joyce Carol Vincent, died from causes unknown shortly before Christmas 2003. Her body was not discovered until January 2007 when bailiffs acting on behalf of a housing association arrived at her flat with a repossession order as her rent had not been paid for 3 years. Questions were asked by her local MP, Lynne Featherstone (who appears in the film), as to how it was possible that her death had been unnoticed by anyone during the three-year period. The unusual and poignant nature of Joyce's demise led the film maker, Carol Morley, to begin investigating who Joyce had been and how she had been so abandoned in death. The film is the result of her efforts to piece together Joyce Carol Vincent.

Not long before her death we learn that Joyce was hospitalised for a peptic ulcer; she listed her next-of-kin at the hospital as her bank manager describing him as the person who knew her best. Yet the film features people from her life - ex-boyfriends, flat mates, friends, ex-colleagues - that she could have called upon. Although it is easy to believe that the circumstances of her death and body's subsequent discovery were the fault of a society whose care for its members has unravelled Al, one of Joyce's ex-boyfriends, states in the film that Joyce had some responsibility for her demise by pulling away and isolating herself from those who knew and cared about her. Beneath the sociological comment the film offers is a more profound study in Joyce's character and the tragedy that befell her. Indeed it seems as though a combination of traumas in her life had led Joyce, a great keeper of secrets, to isolate herself completely.

The film is an amazing production as the director, Morley, combines documentary style interviews, which flow naturally from the subjects, combined with a fictional account of Joyce's life informed by the interviews but fictionalised at other points. What is even more remarkable is that Morley painstakingly unearthed all the interviewees, pictures, film footage, sound recordings etc as none were available to the authorities in the aftermath of Joyce's death. The film also features Morley's montage of Joyce's time line from birth to death and what she discovers of events along the way. Interestingly Joyce's family did not want to be involved with the making of the film, wishing to remain anonymous.

Amongst the many things that Joyce Carol Vincent did in her life was to meet Nelson Mandela and the film ends with actual footage of Mandela addressing a small musical gathering at which Joyce was present and we see her on film. She was an unusual person, possessed of talents most of which were never realised. As one interviewee remarks (her ex-boyfriend Al) she never seemed to have a future and did not seem fully invested in life. The title is a play on both Joyce sleepwalking through life as well as the dream imagined for the viewer of Joyce's life.

Joyce sings during the film a song the refrain of which is 'my smile is a frown upside down'. She really reminds me of the man in Stevie Smith's poem 'Not Waving But Drowning', who "was much further out than you thought and not waving but drowning ... I was much too far out all my life ..."
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Life & Death
elysium7862 November 2011
I can't remember which poet said it now, but when questioned on why we create art he responded, "to make our living and dying important again, and the living and dying of others." By this measure, Dreams of a Life is an artistic triumph; it does exactly that. If Carol Morley had not re-invented herself as a private detective who would know about Joyce Vincent's story now? The tenacity and iron will it must have taken to get this project off the ground is evident in the care with which this film has been made. Not only in terms of what it draws out of the people who knew Joyce, but also in the skilled reconstructions and outstanding performances from the cast.

The film is fresh and offers something new to the genre with its blurring of documentary and drama. There are moments in the film to make your heart break but as much as anything the film is a celebration and a remembrance of a life lived.
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Your life is your life, know it while you have it
xah_rasul2 November 2011
So wrote Charles Bukowski, not knowing his words would end up selling Levis. That's another story. This story, Dreams of a Life, is a compelling and brilliant documentary. The performances are superb,particularly from Zawe Ashton and Alix Luka-Cain. The film stayed with me a long time after the curtains closed. All of the characters are so interesting that the film does give proof to the credo, 'you couldn't make it up'. Why would you need to with a story as powerful and bizarre and thought-provoking as this? Who are we? What are we? How do we come to be and equally, how to we come to be remembered. What is memory? What is re-memory? As well as these deep questions about the self the film also seeks to ask (without bitterness or blame) - how can this happen? What does it say about society that people can fall through the cracks and disappear? I highly recommend Dreams of a Life, it is a labour of love and this shows in the attention to detail it gives to the people and events that come together to tell this story with such power and such care.
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The Mystery of the Forgotten Woman
Chris_Pandolfi3 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
In January of 2006, the severely decomposed body of a woman was found in a bedsit flat above a shopping mall in the Wood Green district of North London. By pathology, it was determined that she had remained undiscovered for approximately three years. Her body was surrounded by Christmas presents, and apparently, she died in the process of wrapping them. The television set, which sat in one corner of the room, had been left on the entire time. The virtually skeletal condition of the remains meant that she could only be identified by comparing dental records with a photograph of her smiling. Her name was Joyce Carol Vincent, and at the time of her death, she was thirty-eight years old. Although the grim discovery would be mentioned in local newspapers, details regarding Vincent's personal life, including a picture of her, were noticeably missing.

Due to the state she was found in, a specific cause of death could not be determined, and the coroner recorded an open verdict. It remains unknown to this day, although it's strongly believed that she died of natural causes. Filmmaker Carol Morley read Vincent's story in the daily tabloid "The Sun" and was haunted by the questions it raised. Now I am, too. How is it possible that the local council, the housing association, and the utility companies didn't notice mounting unpaid bills? How could her neighbors attribute the stench of decaying flesh to dumpsters? Why were the police unwilling to delve any further into the case? The official explanation, according to what Member of Parliament Lynne Featherstone was told, was that there was nothing to answer to in terms of foul play. How they figured out Vincent wasn't murdered in the first place has not been made entirely clear.

Morley has channeled her fascination with this story into "Dreams of a Life," a morbidly curious, deeply tragic, strangely compelling documentary constructed entirely from hearsay. It shows that Vincent's life was just as much of a mystery as her death; the scraps we're fed about her are provided by interviewees that at best knew her superficially. Listen to them talk, and you'll repeatedly hear them qualify their statements with phrases like, "I think," "I believe," "Maybe," "I seem to remember," and, "It could be," among many others. It would appear she never let anyone get too close to her, which is ironic given the fact that, by all accounts, she was a beautiful woman and had a fairly active social life. She would ultimately lose touch with everyone, and by the time her body was discovered, many of her former friends and acquaintances didn't initially realize the tabloids were referring to the woman they knew.

The interviewees were found only after Morley placed an ad with various publications and internet sites. We see the ad printed on the side of a black cab: "Did you know Joyce Carol Vincent?" Even then, it took months to get a response. Of the people Morley features, three stand out as the most interesting. One is Martin Lister, who met Vincent in 1985 when he worked negotiating client renewals for a shipping company; Vincent was twenty at the time and was his boss' secretary. They would date for three years and then sporadically keep in touch until 2002. The last time she was in his life, he claims, she was staying in his flat and was seemingly in some kind of trouble. He says that she knew every inch of the city, having moved at least once a year. He learned very little about her, although he recalls her telling him about her Indian mother, who died when she was eleven, and her African father, a carpenter. This contradicts what was published, namely that her parents were from the Caribbean.

Another featured subject is Catherine Clark, who befriended Vincent when they were renting a room in the home of musician Kirk Thorne. She wasn't surprised when she learned that Vincent had spent some time in a battered women's shelter, for she knew that Vincent had attracted many men into her life. Perhaps her isolation towards the end of her life had something to do a controlling boyfriend. This could account for why her older sisters, who allegedly raised her following their mother's death, were only briefly seen during Vincent's inquest and didn't want to participate in this film. And then there's Alistair Abrahams, a former music manager and Vincent's ex-boyfriend. He too describes a beautiful, fun woman who never shared her past. He recalls when they attended a Nelson Mandela tribute concert in 1990 and how she shook Mandela's hand.

Just about everyone in the film expresses disbelief and guilt over not knowing something had happened to her. They don't understand how the woman they knew – a happy, bubbly spirit with a beautiful singing voice and aspirations of being a pop star – could have possibly ended up in a bedsit and died alone. Morley attempts to fill some of the gaps with strategically placed reenactments, which feature Zawe Ashton and Alix Luka-Cain as the adult and child versions of Vincent respectively. It was reported that Vincent was medically treated for a peptic ulcer, and so Morley depicts her looking gravely ill and doubling over in pain the night she died. Perhaps it happened that way, and perhaps it didn't. "Dreams of a Life" raises a lot of questions, but the most important is: How is it possible for someone to slip through the cracks in today's fast-paced, technologically innovative, socially centered world?

-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
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Sad but powerful
billcr1231 March 2012
Newspaper headlines are flashed on screen detailing the strange case of a 38 year old woman found dead in her apartment after three years. Joyce Carol Vincent died a lonesome death, without drawing notice. A pathologist could not determine the cause of death due to its decomposition. Dental records were used for identification. The people who discovered her said that the television was on and Christmas presents were partially wrapped. A reenactment shows a team in hazmat suits decontaminating the flat. A picture of a pretty black woman is shown while interviews with friends and co-workers begin.She is described as well spoken and easy going. Her mother wast Indian and father a black Grenadian carpenter and womanizer. Her mother died when she was eleven and she told those around her that her father had also passed away. Later on it is discovered that he passed away a year after her.

Recordings are played from a studio session when Joyce was aspiring to be a professional singer. A boyfriend, Martin, speaks well of her with fond memories. He is white and overweight and was shocked that such a good looking woman would date him. Another boyfriend remembers living with her and the night she tells him how she met Nelson Mandela. They eventually drift apart and she lives a nomadic lifestyle, rooming with different men and possibly being physically abused by one. A beautiful actress(Zawe Ashton) portrays Joyce in the film and she is very good.

Ironically, the most compelling figure of the story turns out to be Martin, who with introspection, regrets the choices he made because he never stops thinking about Joyce, who he loved very much.

Dreams of A Life is a powerful and moving statement on how little we really know about each other and the inner demons within all of us.
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An interesting concept but just too long.
markgorman7 January 2012
Carol Morley has come up with a really interesting idea.

She's written and directed a documentary about the mysterious death of a beautiful West Indian 39 year old girl (Joyce Vincent) who was a major hit with the lads "People said she was as good looking as Whitney Houston; I thought she was more attractive than that." and had hundreds of friends and admirers and a huge family to boot; four sisters.

The film is not so much about how she died but the fact that it took three years for her body to be discovered. In her flat. Watching her TV which was still on.

No Electricity company shut her utilities off; the council never chased the rent; no one complained about the smell; none of her friends visited; none of doting ex's; none of her family. Nobody.

Carol Morley builds a documentary mixing dramatised re-enactments of her life and "Touching the Void" type real life storytelling to get closer to the truth than the police ever did.

It's a fascinating idea and in places nicely shot with some interesting music (although hardly a career high for ex-Magazine bassist Barry Adamson).

Why then is it so unengaging emotionally? Why do we not really care about poor Joyce Vincent? I think because the story is dragged 30 – 40 minutes past is tell by date. It's just far too long.

It's a shame because I really wanted to like it and applaud almost everything about it; including the fact that it was funded (in part by the Irish Film Board!?) and the incredible detective work that Carol Morley did to unearth so many of the people in Joyce Vincent's life when the police found not one of them.

In the end, it just makes the police look ridiculous.

And poor old Martin, the bachelor who lost the love of his life.

Bless him.
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Could have been so much more
Leofwine_draca24 April 2013
DREAMS OF A LIFE is a feature length 2011 docu-drama by filmmaker Carol Morley that tells the true story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman who died in her flat in London around 2003 and wasn't found until more than three years later. The story itself is a great one, one of the most tragic tales you could imagine and a true reflection on the careless nature of modern society, but DREAMS OF A LIFE drops the ball along the way.

Morley messes up by focusing way too much on recreating Vincent's brief life as a celebration instead of really getting to the heart of the manner of her death. After all, it's the unusual circumstances surrounding the death that makes this such a good story, but we learn next to nothing about it. Just how could somebody die in the heart of a heaving metropolis, with the TV on no less, and nobody realise for three years?

Instead, there are endless bite-sized interviews with friends who knew here, and a good half an hour of excruciating singing as Morley explores Vincent's passion for music. All of this needed to be jettisoned and replaced with an investigative journalist doing a voice-over and exploring the mysteries that remain unsolved to date.
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touch home
estelleberlan18 December 2011
where do i start? this movie is powerful,uncomfortable,sad and true to life. I felt i was watching my life unfold on the screen....really odd experience. It touch me deeply..love the way its been filmed,i didn't felt like they exploited her short life, they just gave Joyce the farewell she somehow deserved... i must confess i will have love to know all the blank of her life. i would like to know why the family did not get involve directly with the making of the film? also why we don't get to know the full reason she went into a refuge for abuse women? did she get some kind of counselling? who was the person who interview her at the refuge? Surely,to get the bedsit she must have told someone what happens. you don't get those kind of accommodation if you are not in a really bad situation. i have million of questions and none of them will be answered Thats the cleverness of this movie....because you still left wondering Why?
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A sad, melancholy docu drama that evenly balances itself just right
davideo-22 May 2012
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

Joyce Vincent's skeleton was found in her London bedsit three years after she died, surrounded by wrapped Christmas presents and with the TV still on in the background. Despite once having a fairly active social life, she clearly masked deep rooted insecurities to those around her, some of whom provide talking head perspectives here. These may have driven her to make some bad decisions and mix with the wrong people, drifting apart from those who really cared about her. Film maker Carol Morley attempts to piece together the events leading up to her death, trying to create a picture of who this woman was and how she came to meet such a lonely, desperate end.

It's testament to what a crazy, twenty four hour news world we live in that Joyce Vincent's story, as mind blowing and heart breaking as it is, is the type of thing you could read about in some rag like The Sun and then just put to the back of your mind faster than Jack Robinson. But however much you think about it, the idea of a woman lying dead in her home for three years with not a single friend or family member coming round to check on her or noticing she was gone will always make you wonder what kind of world we're living in, especially with so much more to hand than in years gone by.

As off putting as the thought of it is, the tone of the film should really be as dark and down beat as it can be, since it's such a desperately sad, shaming true life tale, but of course this would make it inaccessible to some, and it works more that Morley balances her work with more soulful, melancholy interludes in between the more dour, desperate moments. We learn of a confident, bubbly woman who could be the life and soul of any party, but who clearly carried deep, dark insecurities around with her and who failed to display much of a personality of her own, preferring to latch on to the close friends and people she had around her.

With the limited amount of material she has to work with, new comer Zawe Ashton brings Joyce to life in as colourful and under stated a way as she can, always at her best in alone, private moments when her passion and talent as a singer really comes to life, only for nothing to come of this. As Robert De Niro once stated in a film of his, there's nothing sadder than wasted talent and while these are very wise words, the film shows how a vulnerable, insecure personality can inadvertently make this so.

Morley has crafted a haunting, desperately sad tale that shows even in the 21st century we still live in more of an atomised, apart society than we'd care to admit and that maybe we don't care about each other as much as we ought to. ***
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Poorly Conceived
starrsofringo31 March 2012
After reading the description of this film I looked forward to a well delivered film about the life and times of a woman who was eventually found dead in her apartment.

Yes, the premise of finding out who she was and the life she had lived seemed like it would have provided an interesting journey for the viewers. Adding to the fact that not a single person had shown interest in her life when it ended and then not being found until 3 years later as a skeleton on a couch, the TV still running - made this seem like it may be interesting.

However, I am disappointed to say that this film just doesn't have what a decent documentary needs. It contains barely any real evidence of the woman's life, and she is only seen in a few photographs at one point in the film.

The story relies on some of her old acquaintances, who most obviously were not close friends with her. We are made to sit through endless assumptions and vague memories shot with a typical interview type backdrop throughout the entire film. Some of them just seem to just be there to get some screen time of their own and the film makers have been desperate enough to use basically anyone with any kind of connection to the victim.

To make this 'documentary' a complete failure is the reliance on dramatization. It's a terrible attempt at story telling, the acting is poor and to tread even more dirt into this attempt at documentary making the film makers have recreated the woman's apartment, recreated the police crew packing up the apartment in full chemical suits.

They also try to create a 'What if' scenarios by including a 'What if she was murdered?' theme to try and add more to it.

The movie feels empty and poorly conceived. There is just not enough real footage and real evidence to even hold together 30 minutes let alone 1.5 hours.

If you like your documentaries filled with acted dramatization, poor acting, film sets and montages created because they have no real footage of the events and a group of interviewees that were never close enough to the woman to help her in her times of need.

Then this is your kind of movie.
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Painful and pointless.
supersmoothape22 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
An utterly pointless, self-indulgent and thoroughly depressing slice of hotchpotch investigative journalism. This film ought to be avoided if at all possible. It seems as though the filmmaker became so carried away with her success at uncovering those ties and relationships the police and the authorities in their 'run of the mill' investigation failed to discover that she thought it warranted an entire 95min film on the matter. The result is an odd, empty and protracted examination of the life of somebody who seemed to have, quite simply (, horrific though it may be,) slipped through the net, rather than an examination of existential concerns over death, mortality, solitude, unaccomplished dreams and most importantly the beauty of a life that was left for so long without the ties that would have led to it's commemoration. What was the filmmaker trying to accomplish here? Firstly one gets the impression that the drive behind the film is almost a sense of overwhelming injustice, a sort of primal cry for the remembrance of another person who was left for so long and in such a way. However after a while one realises that the film runs very short on material and instead of examining the beauty of a forgotten existence it obsesses and makes assumptions on its demise. Why then make such a film? If the motivation for it was the anomalous circumstances and sense of horror, unease and injustice felt by the fact that Joyce Vincent lay dead for three years in her apartment without anyone in the entire world realising; that someone in today's society (, someone who wasn't too far off being similar to you and I,) could vanish into solitude and ultimately death, then surely a film about her and her life should serve to recall her story in a more celebratory fashion.A dreadful film.
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A newspaper article made into a film + lots of opinions
Hollie Brennan24 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
While the story of Joyce Vincent is deeply saddening, this film is comprised about 60% of interviews of people speculating what happened, 30% reconstruction of speculated moments and 10% of informative, engaging content if that. I am not the kind of person to be interested in speculation of an interesting story, particularly when those speculating are Vincent's work colleagues, and on and off boyfriends from DECADES AGO. ***SPOILER ABOUT HER VAGUE PERSONALITY, WHO KNEW?!*** So we discover that, while people got impressions of her they never really knew her, which you would expect of someone who was dead for three years before she was found. I lost count of the amount of times I heard them talk about how pretty and sexy she was. So much repetition with regards to interview content. It's just boring. Her family doesn't appear because they want to remain anonymous... and uninformative. You may be asking yourself "but surely- SURELY her family would have tried to contact her and find her?" and yeah, they all ask that too. Numerous times. "Was it a murder?" they wonder that too. SO MUCH SPECULATION. I started drifting off about half an hour in, by which point you pretty much get all the details you're going to get. You get all the facts in about the first five minutes. This documentary is more about the people around her, recalling vague memories, who aren't engaging enough to base a documentary on. It's just too long winded and opinionated and I don't have time for that.
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is this an elaborate hoax?
trpuk196824 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I like the comments from another reviewer, about how ms Vincent didn't fit in easily, neither the Black, nor Asian community and encountering racism from her white boyfriend Martin's parents. I was fascinated to watch this having lived in Wood Green myself during the early nineties and I remember vividly during the course of my training in one of the caring professions visiting a client in the very same block of flats where Joyce died. Its a strange building, a walkway above a car park, sitting on top of a shopping centre and very anonymous. No one passing by and, from Wood Green High street, you would never imagine there are homes above this shopping centre. Apparently the housing association have reviewed their procedures after Joyce was three years in arrears with her rent. Knowing how inept and useless many big organisations are its easy to see how someone in social housing could get into big rent arrears. Someone in the organisation has to notice, then they have to consult a manager, then they have to have a meeting, then they have to refer it to a committee, then there's another meeting, then they have to check with the social services... Still, there must have been a power cut at some stage in the three years. Who was paying the electricity bills if the TV was still on? Why wasn't the electricity cut off? Things don't add up. If Joyce had contact with professionals dealing with domestic violence, there must be case records. Were the police ever called to an incident? Did Joyce use aliases? I ve hear a couple of theories, one is this whole film is an elaborate hoax. The other is she was murdered by someone with a key to her flat and the murderer went to great lengths to cover their tracks. The housing association could answer some of these questions, such as confirming there really was a Joyce Vincent housed by them. Also, many housing associations will only issue one set of keys to tenants, special keys which you cannot copy at a regular locksmiths. Someone needs to check this story out. It would not be the first time a national newspaper like The Sun was duped by a hoax. I m not saying it IS a hoax, just that it might be... Finally, I saw this at the Odeon and while I encourage anyone to watch it, you won t lose anything by waiting for the DVD. Cinema tickets can be pricey these days and Dreams of a Life is perfectly good watched on the small screen.
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A touching poignant documentary about Joyce Vincent
Parker Lewis28 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Joyce died in 2003 but it took three years for her decomposed and unrecognizable remains to be found in her bedsitter. It's not only the sad and tragic story of Joyce's final years, but also about alienation, family and neighbors. Sadly Joyce put her bank manager down as the next-of-kin when she was at the hospital. Also one of Joyce's final jobs was working as a cleaner, and the interviewees had difficulty imagining her doing this work. Still, cleaning is an honorable job and someone had to do it I guess.

Zawe Ashton played Joyce Vincent as an adult, and Alix Luka-Cain played Joyce Vincent as a girl.

Carol Morley, who directed this unforgettable documentary, wrote about her experiences in https://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/oct/09/joyce-vincent-death- mystery-documentary

Dreams of a Life is haunting and a sharp commentary about the value of life.

One incredibly sorrowful moment was at the end when Martin, Joyce's ex-boyfriend, started crying.

The final scene was special. It featured a brief clip of Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley in 1990, addressing musicians, and there was Joyce amongst the select few in the cheering crowd, watched by millions worldwide.
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Compelling Viewing of a Life that Never Was
p-stepien21 December 2013
The news of Joyce Vincent's body discovered in a flat in 2006, hit the British waves causing a shock to the system. Joyce died in her apartment just before Christmas 2003, packing presents and watching television, for three years no one noticed her disappearance, no one enquired about her, not even the landlord reacted to the constantly playing TV or the unpaid bills. However terrifying the vision was, it was just a story, as noted by her former friends, lovers and acquaintances that initially failed to connect the death with the Joyce they knew.

The documentary by Carol Morey uncovers the person behind the story and attempts to explain not only the obvious shocking question: How can someone dissolve unnoticed from society? Instead it also fleshes out Joyce Vincent as a person, a human being with dreams and achievements. Probably most surprisingly Joyce Vincent turns out to be somewhat of an extrovert, a beautiful well-versed person of mixed race, who back in the days was loved and adored by many, even having at least two meaningful relationships. Her downfall turns out to be even more shocking given she was once heavily connected with the London musical circles and later on had a well-paid job in the financial sector. Despite these episodes of success, she ultimately spirals into oblivion - detached from her family and friends.

Some may feel unsatisfied at how many questions regarding Joyce Vincent remain unearthed, as there is a large blank period just prior to her death. Not much is known as to why she dropped out of society or why she left her well-paid accountancy post to work as a cleaner. No one knows for whom the presents were being prepared. Not much is said about the abusive Polish boyfriend. But I feel that all these dark parts of Joyce Vincent, mysterious as they must be, would only distract from what is otherwise a sombre eulogy to her life, painting a picture of someone worth remembering, despite her ultimate failure. The sensitive approach with which Carol Morley approaches her story is remarkable, distinctly painting a picture of Joyce, molding her as a person and bringing her something she would have so hoped for: remembrance.

The movie lingers in your memory, invoking questions about the society you live in, where despite being surrounded by warm and caring individuals (as much of Vincent's friends seem to be), she managed to fall through the social net of emotional co-dependence, which binds us all together. The story leaves us contemplating the frailty of our lives and the lucid relevance of who we are. On a personal note also left me all gooey and hugging my significant other - love and acceptance is all we need...
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thought provoking
sophiaciting2 September 2013
If you are the type of person who is interested in peoples lives this is your film to watch, of course this way is not everyone is but don't let bad reviews put you off.My eyes never left the screen, I found it immensely interesting and quite sad. I feel it is really important for this film to have been made, simply for the fact that because of this film she did not disappear and even though she died alone she didn't live her life in vain. My feeling after watching the film was that in a sense we could all gain perspective - That is how vivid all of our lives are if only we can see it... Joyce may have never known how much people cared but the fact is they had, and what we must remember is there is always someone willing to help, there is always a chance. It seems she had many, for example seeing her old housemate randomly on the street - it could have been a chance to get help - This film is simply a quest to bring back some dignity and life for someone that could have just disappeared off the face of the earth. Now she is in so many peoples memories and I find that quite a noble quest.
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I so wanted to like this documentary, but...
durwoodg21 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The premise behind this film was quite the teaser; how tragic for someone to die in their own apartment and not be found (missed) for three years. How could this happen? What is the back story? Unfortunately, there wasn't much of one.

Not to sound cruel, but the reasons she was not found are probably the same reasons that this movie was not compelling - her life was was tragically mundane, as I'm sure many of our lives are as well. Whatever the circumstances are of my own demise, I don't think it will justify a compelling movie about my life. That's not to say that mine has not been a wonderful and indeed fascinating life, but merely a normal life.

The movie relies on interviews with former colleagues and casual friends who do a lot of speculation as to how this could have happened - with few facts. They continually talk about how tragic the circumstances of her "death" were, interjecting baseless speculation about murder or depression. In fact, the circumstances surrounding her death did not seem to be particularly odd - she likely died of natural causes in her apartment. Given that she had (perhaps inexplicably but perhaps not) withdrawn into isolation, it is not that odd to think that she might have died alone. Perhaps over the course of the three years, old friends and colleagues did try to call her, without assuming anything out of the ordinary when she failed to answer - this speculation is as valid as that found in the movie.

There was only one character, a colleague with whom she had shared a love interest, that had any compelling insight into her life or who displayed any real emotions. The others were too ancillary to her life to provide any visceral reaction to her death.

The movie would have been better served if it speculated more on how this story might have been different in the age of Facebook: Is it less likely for this to happen in today's socially-connected world of tweets, status updates and event invites? Or the movie could have delved more into how institutions failed - how did it happen that the failure to pay mortgage, electricity, water didn't cause concern?

The movie did provide an interesting re-creation of what her last day might have been like, based on forensic evidence at the scene. But even that was rife with speculation and presented as an overly dramatic re- imagining of her last day.

I do believe that everyone's life is precious and it is tragic when anyone dies alone so, yes, I did empathize with the character in the story. But I felt the same degree of empathy after reading the movie's teaser as I did after seeing the film - it didn't add to my empathy or understanding.
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Almost like a suicide
PipAndSqueak19 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I'm sure unnoticed deaths are far more common than we might assume. In this case, owing to the relative youth of the deceased and the length of time it took to discover her, there remain many unanswered questions. The young woman (38) was of Indian Asian/Grenadian extraction, having lost her mother at age 11 (when her mother was 41),and had been raised with 'aspirations' without having access to the routes that would accomplish what are likely to have been her parents' expectations. It's a very sad tale, sadder that her oldest friend was clearly still carrying a light for her. So, there she was, never really fitting in, not prepared to enter the 'black ghetto', not really being part of the Asian community and living on the margins of the white world - amongst all the other misfits. I suspect there was much that she did not understand and much that she would not know how to deal with as a result. She evidently tried to create an image that would act as a thin ediface of self-esteem whilst she tried to navigate her way through life. So sad that this may have undermined her health and brought about an untimely and unnoticed end. Full marks to Carol Morley in piecing the evidence together although this film doesn't quite keep your attention all through. Oddly, I was tempted to close my eyes a couple of times and would have dozed off if it had been on TV - quite ironic really!
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Just awful
Jennifer Moyer21 January 2013
OK, the subject matter is awful. Woman is so far gone from society that even her "friends" don't look for her when she dies and sits in her apartment for 3 years. The social commentary alone is hard and we should really look at ourselves.

But, the movie itself is awful. The way it was filmed was just bad. I grew tired of listening to her so-called "friends" talk about how great she was. Yeah, that's why you went looking for her when you didn't hear from her for 3 years. Hope I never have friends like that. The film made it sound like this woman's family had nothing to do with her. When, in reality, they hired a PI to find her AND were at the inquest into her death. More than her "friends" did. The majority of the film focused on the actress playing Joyce and speculating on what she did. They should have included more of the medical examiner's report, forensics, the friends and why they let her down, and her family. Instead, I was left with more questions. I got more answers from a quick Google search. Just look up the story and read about it instead.
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Spoiler alert-- dreams of a life review
diabolicala12321 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I was originally very interested in seeing this movie. the whole story of what may have happened to this woman. I can definitely understand why a film was made surrounding this mystery. I did not find it to be very interesting nor did my husband. the best term I can use it is mush.

The flip flops between reenacted so called life experiences and muttering of friends about random encounters they had with her. it left me wondering so many times why is this even in this movie? It almost includes such boring details as weather she liked her eggs poached or fried. A lot of the details are random and do not connect. Nor does it conclude or give real details as to why some of her male relationships ended. Yet there were plenty of vague statements made by various exes.it leaves me curious as to what mundane details were edited. You were with her for years and the only thing you can say is how lovely she was and that you had some "good" times?

The so called life experiences are drug out with super slow camera panning. SPOILER ALERT----- The entire movie focuses on how beautiful and enigmatic she was and yet humble. It also seemed confusing as to weather she was very promiscuous? There are certainly enough of this film that suggests that. A lot of dream sequence scenes are painfully long and downright corny. How many singing sadly alone with a brush sequences are needed to get the point across? This probably never happened. Lets not forget the sad and brutally slow dead eyed apartment scenes. From all accounts it suggests she was vivacious party girl.

Over all, this was a dud. The movie could have been shortened to a half an hour. The real mystery lies in the fact her landlord didn't come busting her door down a month after she died. I am left to believe she was beautiful woman who knew it and didn't truly care about her relationships with others.
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Good documentary which could have been better
Sadia Afrin10 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Joyce Carol Vincent's life story is saddening, and intriguing. I applaud the director for bringing her story into everyone's attention and trying to string together her life and ambitions. But I felt the documentary was not very well made. Zawe Ashton as Joyce was spectacular and her acting was mesmerizing. That being said, the documentary needed to subtitle the names of the people who appeared and talked about Joyce. It was very annoying to figure out who was whom and how they knew Joyce. The most irritating thing was the board with horrible, almost unintelligible handwriting. The family declined to appear on the docu which was a big disappointment. All in all, I feel Carol tried her best but I felt more effort was needed.
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