Dreams of A Life (3 stars)

Dreams of A Life

Compelling UK documentary-drama investigation into life of dead woman

(12A) 90min

Back in January 2006 a 38-year-old Londoner of Afro-Caribbean descent, Joyce Vincent, was found dead in her Wood Green housing association flat located above a busy shopping centre. Her decomposing corpse had lain there undisturbed for nearly three years, surrounded by Christmas presents and with the television still tuned to BBC One. How could such a tragedy happen in 21st century Britain?

In a manner reminiscent of Agnes Varda’s Vagabond, writer-director Carol Morley (The Alcohol Years) mixes up formats in this compelling documentary-drama investigation into Vincent’s intriguing life story. There are imaginative, voiceless reconstructions, in which Fresh Meat actress Zawe Ashton plays the adult Joyce, shrewdly chosen songs, such as Carolyn Crawford’s ‘My Smile is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down)’, and interviews with Joyce’s ex-partners, friends and colleagues. A fascinating portrait emerges of a strikingly attractive and vivacious woman, who was also secretive and even chameleonic in her tendency to move between social circles. There are conflicting memories and testimonies of Joyce: some say that she had a tremendous singing voice, whilst music producer and former boyfriend Alistair Abrahams believes she had no discernible musical talent. A unique, if slightly disjointed, film, which speaks volumes about the profound mysteries of other people’s lives.

Dreams of a Life Trailer

Dreams of a Life

  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • UK
  • 1h 35min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Carol Morley
  • Cast: Zawe Ashton, Neelam Bakshi, Jonathan Harden
  • UK release: 16 December 2011

After Joyce Vincent died in her North London bedsit, her body lay undiscovered for three years. Filmmaker Morley sets out to learn about this little-known woman in a film which speaks volumes about the profound mysteries of other peoples’ lives.

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