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Dreams of a Life

Dreams of a Life

Released 6 January 2012
Director Carol Morley
Starring Zawe Ashton, Alix Luka-Cain
Writer(s) Carol Morley

Katherine Butler, Cairo Cannon, Tabitha Jackson
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 122 minutes
Genre Documentary, drama
Rating TBC

Living nightmare.

Heartbreaking. There are many ways of describing the story of Joyce Vincent but heartbreaking is the most natural and instantaneous reaction. A beautifully crafted film by Carol Morley acts as a eulogy to a woman's life that tragically ended in such bizarre circumstances amongst the hustle and bustle of dynamic city life in London.

Dreams of a Life attempts to piece together the life of Joyce Vincent, a 38 year-old woman who was found in her lonely bedsit flat in 2006 – more than two years after she had actually died. The television remained on the entire time and she was surrounded by a selection of wrapped Christmas presents. A heaped stack of mail at her front door and food in the refrigerator that expired in 2003, the only reason it was now and not later that someone came across her was because officials had come to repossess her home. Her body was completely decomposed and the only way that she could be identified was by comparing dental records with an old photograph of her smiling.

But who was Joyce Vincent and why had she been left alone for such a long period of time, apparently uncared for, unloved? The news stories surrounding the inquest into Vincent's death made a lasting impression on Morley who dedicated her time to unearthing the history behind a now lost body and life.

With a selection of interviews with people from her past interwoven with re-enacted scenes of the perceived life that Vincent led, it becomes clear that she was in fact a vivacious character that was liked, and indeed loved, by many. Yet, for all of her bubbly nature, very few people really knew her that deeply as she failed to openly connect with anyone for a long enough period – preferring to leap from one group of friends to another, one home to the next.

The devastating story highlights that even though we currently live in a cynical age of communication, the possibility for someone to effectively vanish off the face of the earth in one of the liveliest, most cosmopolitan and communication obsessed cities in the world is arguably more possible now than ever before. Few films are as real as this one which makes it almost impossible not to start thinking about your own family, friends and loved ones. Harrowing, troubling and touching, Dreams of a Life should be watched by everyone, if only to gain some perspective on what is really important.

- David Caulfield