Imagine you disappeared for three years and no-one noticed? Pretty terrible to think it is possible isn’t it? Well, that is exactly what happened to Joyce Vincent; the subject of a new drama documentary Dreams of A Life directed by Carol Morley.

Despite writing this 24 hours after seeing this film I am still haunted with the grief and sorrow Dreams of a Life evokes. Despite being a story about a woman who desperately wanted to ‘be someone’, ironically thirty eight year-old Joyce Vincent ended up dying alone. Nobody grieved her loss until her skeleton was found three years after her death by bailiffs who had come to evict her and even then the news reports didn’t click with those who had been closest to her. It wasn’t until Morley unearthed those who really knew Joyce that they realised it was her; the woman who died alone in a bedsit in Wood Green.

…a beautiful woman who essentially floated through her existence…

Morley’s compulsion to tell Joyce’s story is evident from this powerful piece of work but it also represents a warning to viewers that this could happen to anyone. Drilling down to the most natural insecurities; the need to be loved, celebrated and wanted, Morley depicts a beautiful woman who essentially floated through her existence by integrating herself within the lives of her various boyfriends without establishing her own network of people around her. As her partners changed, so too did her friends, address and job.

The film is constructed through a series of interviews with people who knew Joyce; old school friends, flatmates and boyfriends who Morley found during her quest to find out more about Joyce’s life. These interviews are intertwined with dramatisations, or reconstructions of Joyce as a child (played by Alix Luca-Cain) and as an adult (played by Zawe Ashton). Neither version of Joyce utters a word during the film except to sing (some of Joyce’s boyfriends tell us she wanted to be a singer). Zawe Ashton delivers an excellent performance given the amount of background available to inform her character.

…“If I died tomorrow, would anyone notice?”…

This story does not just linger, it festers. “If I died tomorrow, would anyone notice?” is the thought you instantly begin to ask yourself, only to reconcile it immediately with reassuring offerings of the names of those who would.

Dreams of Life is released in selected cinemas across the UK on Friday December 16.

Images courtesy of Dreams of a Life



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