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Dreams of a Life (2012)



Average Rating: 7.7/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 2

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 2,406

My Rating

Movie Info

Would anyone miss you? Nobody noticed when Joyce Vicent died in her bedsit above a shopping mall in North London in 2003. Her body wasn't discovered for three years, surrounded by Christmas presents she had been wrapping, and with the TV still on. Newspaper reports offered few details of her life -- not even a photograph. Interweaving interviews with imagined scenes from Joyce's life is not only a portrait of Joyce but a portrait on London in the eighties -- the city, music and race. It is a

Dec 11, 2012


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All Critics (23) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (16) | Rotten (7)

Somewhere at the bottom of this story is an ache about the value of a life.

June 18, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Its holes or omissions cannot diminish the gaping eloquence of the situation and the questions that arise.

June 13, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For all its subtext about identity and London's social fabric, "Dreams of a Life" leaves too many blanks and is ultimately more frustrating than rewarding.

August 2, 2012 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A riveting tale of a onetime vivacious personality, described by those who knew her as "stunning," "lovely," and "very well liked," but who nevertheless died alone, friendless and seemingly missed by nobody.

August 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Director Morley has at least restored something of a soul to her subject.

July 31, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Left with barely any there there, Morley compensates with long reenactments starring look-alike Zawe Ashton that are never quite convincing but instead suck more air out of the haunting vacuum left behind in Vincent's wake.

July 31, 2012 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Disappointing documentary-fiction hybrid on the true story of a woman found dead and alone in an apartment three years after her demise. A pile-up of unanswered questions and unidentified witnesses frustrates more than it intrigues.

August 6, 2012 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Dreams of a Life unintentionally amounts to a mean-spirited snooze.

August 3, 2012 Full Review Source: indieWIRE

Dreams of a Life succeeds in making its point about the unkowability of the people in our lives, but there isn't quite enough substance here to fully sustain the film.

July 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Stunningly perplexing ... while it does leave you terribly bummed out in the end, it also leaves you with a whole lot of questions.

March 19, 2012 Full Review Source:

It's a fascinating film, skilfully assembled, and one is inevitably reminded of Citizen Kane and Rashomon...

December 18, 2011 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

What results is an impressionistic study of how the big city can envelope a person until there is almost nothing left except what bits and pieces acquaintances can remember.

December 16, 2011 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

It is necessarily incomplete but still constructs a haunting portrait of a woman who deserved a better life and death.

December 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

Makes for queazy viewing.

December 15, 2011 Full Review Source: The Skinny
The Skinny

She may have been forgotten in life, but Joyce Vincent will haunt anyone who watches this astonishing film.

December 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

The problem - and it's a glaring one - is that Morley imposes a creative stamp on the material that keeps getting in the way.

December 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

It isn't just the mystery that mesmerises, it is the misery or the apprehension of it: the sense of some untold, secret pain that had been Vincent's constant companion.

December 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Watching it is an almost claustrophobic experience, but a very powerful and moving one.

December 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Guardian

Hard to recall a film that lodges in the memory quite like this. Unmissable.

December 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

Audience Reviews for Dreams of a Life

One of the most haunting films I've ever seen. A lot of relationship, community and social issues are raised here as peoples emotions, reactions and memories are all laid bare. The reconstruction of the clearing out of the flat, littered with memories is very effective amid recreations of Joyce Vincent singing as a child and wrapping Christmas gifts the night before she died. The interviews of Joyce Vincent's friends are quite telling of the sort of person she was, all of them speak about her in a positive light but it is her ex-boyfriend Martin who is the most compelling - a really nice guy full of frustration, guilt and sadness that makes for one of the saddest endings to film ever. Powerful and emotional but never dwelling on how she died but very much telling a story of who the person was and why she shouldn't have died, which is a much better way of being remembered and is a life lesson for all of us. A must see.
April 2, 2012

Super Reviewer

"Would anyone miss you?"

A filmmaker sets out to discover the life of Joyce Vincent, who died in her bedsit in North London in 2003. Her body wasn't discovered for three years, and newspaper reports offered few details of her life - not even a photograph.

I remember learning about the discovery of Joyce Vincent's body a few years ago and thinking what a sad and disturbing news story it was, almost beggaring belief in present day civilised society. This superbly and sensitively crafted drama documentary from Carol Morley answers a mere handful of the many questions which inevitably followed while inevitably producing a myriad of others. It is a salutary reminder that life is both precious and mysterious, things are often not what they seem and how we all think we know our friends but in reality our comprehension is limited to what we are actually permitted to see and understand.

The most refreshing and at the same time most disturbing impression given is that Joyce's friends appear to be genuine, caring people but despite this, she still slipped through the emotional and physical net which binds humanity together. The power of this film makes the loss almost as tangible to the audience as it must have felt to Martin. It reminds us that although time is often regarded as a great unhurried and invisible healer, it can also be corrosively destructive.
March 31, 2012
Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

"Dreams of a Life" is an artfully made and haunting documentary about Joyce Vincent whose body was found in her London bedsit(if Wikipedia is to be believed, it's the English equivalent of an SRO) three years after she died, and only because she was about to be evicted for non-payment of rent. While her remains were only idenitifiable through dental records and so badly gone no cause of death could possibly be found, it is the sort of case that is a pipe dream for tabloid reporters. At the same time, the local MP wants answers and filmmaker Carol Morley puts ads in the newspapers to get in touch with former friends and loved ones.(Joyce's older sisters refused to particpate out of privacy for the family.) Through interviews, Morley fills in the gaps of Joyce's timeline, along with faint glimpses of Joyce herself, through a snippet of her voice and a stunning final image.

Joyce's death comes as something of a surprise considering she was only 38.(For the record, her mother was 41 when she died.) But with all the information given and theories floated, the one I don't recall having been given is the possibility that she might have been using drugs. Not to stereotype any more than absolutely necessary, but Joyce tried to get into the music business where musicians have been known to on occasion use drugs. This also might explain her fall from grace and frequent job changes which she tried to hide from her friends with her carefree manner.
July 6, 2014
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

A terrible documentary, loaded with tacky recreations and lasting three times too long for the paltry amount of material available about the main issue (a woman who mysteriously died and went undiscovered in her apartment for three years). Instead of forensics, we're forced to sit through interview after interview establishing that the deceased woman was beautiful and was "fancied" by many suitors. Great. Thrilling. Too bad there wasn't time for even one legitimate photograph of the death site.
January 6, 2014
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

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