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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Dreams of a Life (2012)

It may or may not say something about me, but when I started watching this feature length documentary on the silent and lonely death of Joyce Vincent, what piqued my interest was the brand of the television she had been watching, as it had been on for three years constantly and hadn't broken down.


True, as astounding as it seems, Joyce Vincent's body sat decomposing in her flat for three years before it was discovered and this study of relevant 'friends' that knew her before her death is accompanied by dramatic reconstructions of Joyce, played by Fresh Meat star Zawe Ashton.



Immediately, this seemed like picking over the bones of the tragically unhappy (surely, she must have been) and as such appeared to be unsavoury in the extreme. One does have to ask the question if this is really necessary, despite the 'odd-but-true' nature of events?


This is not a normally shielded inspection of one woman's tragic passing from the point of view of those that want to find out, for professional reasons, how she died, but an often uncomfortable dissection of a person and character in minutiae that want to know why she died. From the candid interviews with those that knew her, most seemed quite surprised by some of the things they were told about Joyce, suggesting that they really didn't know her at all. As such, you have to wonder why they bothered interviewing them.


This all came about because the director was trying to find out as much about Joyce as she could, to little success. It bewildered everybody that this woman was able to go missing for three years and it not be noticed. She had a family of four sisters, ex-boyfriends aplenty and utility bills arriving every other day. So who left the electric on when she didn't pay her bills? All of this is mentioned during the course of two hours where little is resolved. The cause of death was unknown, given the skeletal remains. In fact the only way they could be sure it was even Joyce's corpse was through dental records matched up by a picture taken of here previously, smiling.


So all that remained was to try and piece together the remains of her life from the collection of scattered memories from people that (thought they) knew her. Collated here are the reminiscences of ex-boyfriends, lovers, workmates and acquaintances that only go to highlight how little they really knew a so called friend.


The performance from Ashton is mostly silent, overlaid by a narrative track of people's comments, but nonetheless, it is riveting at times. It is all for nothing, however, as there is no resolution or closure for anyone involved, at least than they had already. Not fascinating at all, and ultimately just plain sad.

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