DREAMS OF A LIFE (2012) — Documentary Retroview

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dreams of a life posterDreams of a Life is the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a 40-something woman whose decomposed corpse was discovered in a North London bedsit in 2003, but only when and because authorities broke in to evict her for nonpayment of rent. She’d been dead for three years and nobody had missed her, nobody had asked after her, nobody had noticed the mail piling up at the door.

Authorities found the television still on. So, not even the electric company and the meter reader had noticed the nonpayment of bills.

The gruesome story made headlines. Everyone was both horrified and fascinated that such a thing could and did happen in modern London.

Despite the public’s intense response to the Joyce Carol Vincent story, little was actually known about the deceased woman’s life and background. Nor was anyone able to say for sure what had happened to her. Was she a murder victim? Did she commit suicide? Had she died of usual or unusual natural causes? There were no answers.

A Story Worth Telling

The masses of people who wondered about Vincent and were saddened by her solitary demise kept interest in the case alive. British filmmaker Carol Morley was fascinated by the story and followed it closely as it unfolded in the newspapers. She decided to try to find answers to some of the questions it raised, and to take a look at what might be called solitary bedsit syndrome, a condition that plagues many people who don’t have families to relate to or people to look after them or pay attention to whether they are well, ill or dead.

Who Was The Woman Who Died Alone?

Eventually, through some good detective work and placing ads in newspaper personals sections, Morley found a group of people who had known Joyce Carol Vincent during an earlier phase of her life. Colleagues who had worked with Vincent informed Morley that the woman of mystery had been employed in a managerial position, and was a very responsible and successful career woman. She was stylish, well liked and respected. Her coworkers had lost touch with her when she’d gone on to what they assumed was a better job, and were actually shocked when Morley told them that the woman who died alone in the bedsit was their former colleague.

Similarly, there were ex-flatmates who reported that Vincent was always happy and on the go, that she loved the club scene and dancing and had a lot of friends. They, too, were stunned that she’d wound up alone in a bedsit and dead at age 40-something. There was even a best friend and beau who was devastated by the realization that had he just known that Joyce was in need, he could and would have helped her out of whatever difficulty she was facing.

What Really Happened?

Based on the comments of former cohorts, Morley staged reenactments of Joyce’s activities at work and play, and of her childhood. The reenactments are well-staged, well-acted, well-shot and presented in such a way that you feel they are authentic although you know they’re staged.

Morley never gets answers to the questions about what actually caused the death of Joyce Carol Vincent. Nor have the police been able to do that. But, Morley’s film is a stunning and dramatic chronicle that provides an intimate look at the life of one lonely woman. It is also an affecting and haunting reminder of how easy it is for a person to become isolated and forgotten as society at large hustles and bustles by, sometimes focusing more on the latest craze than on the simple needs of real friends and neighbors.

Film Details:

Title: Dreams of A Life
Director: Carol Morley
U.S. Theatrical Release Date: August 3, 2012
Running Time: 95 mins.
Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
Country: Great Britain
Filming Locations: London
Language: English
Company: Cannon and Morley Productions
Distributor: Strand Releasing

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