Dreams of a Life

Dreams of a Life

The Arts Desk

Nick Hasted

Carol Morley’s moving documentary brings a dead woman lost in London back to life

The decontamination squad scraped the remains of 38-year-old ex-City professional Joyce Vincent from her seat, in front of a TV which had flickered unseen for three years. They took her wrapped Christmas presents too, and left unsolvable mysteries. How did she die? And how does someone become so alone that they’re left in a north-London flat above a busy shopping centre till their body melts into it?

When director Carol Morley read a Sun headline announcing the macabre discovery in 2006, she pined for those answers, putting ads in the London press, the internet and even a black cab, and working obsessively towards this documentary. It gives feature-length attention to an unknown soldier of 21st-century urban life: a woman who was ignored till she disappeared.

…Death’s tragedy, of course, is often worse for the living. From a primary schoolfriend to work colleagues, Morley’s interviewees show genuine affection, puzzlement and shock as Vincent’s jigsaw is pieced incompletely together. The most heartbreaking figure in her film, though, isn’t Vincent, but Martin, that old boyfriend, who she once asked to marry, and always dropped everything for her. Parental disapproval at her mixed race stymied the wedding but, as he finally breaks down on camera and wails, she was the love of his life. He is bereft for himself that they didn’t stick together, that he didn’t help her even more, that she’s gone…

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