Dreams of a Life

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At the age of 38 Joyce Vincent died alone in her London flat. Nothing so unusual in this apart from the fact hat her body was not found for 3 years.

This is the chilling subject of the brilliant UK documentary ‘Dreams of a Life’.

Perhaps you are expecting Joyce to be a plain girl, a wallflower with no family and few friends who sunk into the background? If you were you would be very much mistaken. This is Joyce

dreams_03cfShe was a ravishingly, beautiful woman who meet Nelson Mandela and attended dinner parties with Gil Scott Heron. A girl who was asked out by pop stars and sort after by practically every man she met.

She had family as well, 3 sisters who raised her following the death of her mother.

Yet for all this when she vanished from the lives of her friends and family no one sort her out. Not even the electricity company to whom she hadn’t paid a bill for 36 months.

So why? Why her? Dreams of a Life’ attempts to answer this question and more importantly find out who Joyce Vincent was.

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As the film digs deeper, we start to see a portrait of a woman who is popular but secretive. A person who constantly changed flats and jobs as if she were running from something.

On her 21st birthday she invited not a single friend or family member to the party held in her honor. Everyone present was a friend of her boyfriend. It was as if she harbored some terrible secret that she was afraid the world would find out about.

At least that’s what we think at first. Until a simpler truth comes to mind, that this is a person who feels a little ashamed of herself. Someone who feels that in spite of her beauty is not deserving of happiness, a woman afraid of being rejected by the world.

We find out that she has no qualifications to speak of and that the high-powered jobs in the city that she claims to have had are figments of an overactive imagination.

There are hints at violent relationships and even suggestions that she was murdered but so sketchy are the details around the final year of her life that this can only be conjecture.

Even more mystifyingly, it turns out that there are men who would have married her and loved her in the way she desired but they were turned away in favor of an abyss of loneliness that ended one night in a dank London council flat.

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The end frame is particularly poignant; a shot of Nelson Mandela being interviewed on a visit to England. As the interviews ends we pull wide to see a young girl turn to camera and leave the scene. It is Joyce, beautiful and shadowy. Her image, magnified from the original footage, looks grainy, as if she were already fading from life.

Here’s an interview with director Alison Morley that’s worth seeing

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