Dreams of a Life (12A)

Film

DREAMS_OF_A_LIFE_1.jpg_cmyk.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
Rate this
 

Time Out says

Tue Dec 13 2011

By rights, Carol Morley’s film about a woman whose body lay rotting in her Wood Green flat for more than two years should be a grim affair. Joyce Vincent  passed away in her flat around Christmas 2003 and was found in January 2006. There was no suggestion of murder or suicide, although the 38 year old’s body was in such a state it was impossible to draw any solid conclusions from what remained of her. Whatever happened, the fact she was lying there for so long is startling enough. But other details tease the imagination further, not least that, when she was found, her television was still on and sitting next to her was a small pile of unopened presents.

‘Dreams of a Life’ picks up these threads of intrigue and introduces more by building a portrait of Vincent from details which director Morley discovers by talking to her friends, family and colleagues. Morley, a Mancunian in her forties, brought us the memoir, ‘The Alcohol Years’ (2000) and still-unreleased drama ‘Edge’ (2010). Here, she plays with factual and fictional forms by combining talking heads and images relating to her research (cabs with ‘missing person’ ads on the side, footage of Vincent’s block of flats) with reconstructions for which actress Zawe Ashton plays Vincent.

Music plays a key role in the film, and there’s a spine-tingling scene in which Ashton as Vincent sings along to Carolyn Crawford’s ‘My Smile is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down)’. It’s a moment which plays hauntingly on the film’s ideas about masks and how little we can really know about another person. Morley honours these ideas by never attempting to offer a definitive version of Vincent’s life. Her film opens up new lines of enquiry. It’s a compassionate film, which gives life to a dry news story by bringing us close to those who knew and loved Vincent. It’s distressing when Martin, her friend and one-time lover, a likeable and tender presence, breaks down on camera at the thought that if only he’d reached out to Vincent more, things could have been different.

We hear from other friends and colleagues who remember Vincent as a woman both gregarious and guarded. Together they offer a beguiling, often contradictory, oral history of a woman who appears both as exceptional and unremarkable as most lives under scrutiny. The only truly remarkable thing about Vincent was her death, and any surprise arising from the fact she was part of a hip late ’80s London music scene, once worked in the City or met Mandela at Wembley Stadium emerges only as a result of stereotypes we have in our mind of the kind of person who would meet such an end.

Morley’s film is a mirror.  How much do we know ourselves? How much do others know us?  It works on the ego as much as it works on our empathy. Could it ever happen to me, you wonder, while lamenting that it happened to Joyce.
0

Reviews

Add +

Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Dec 16, 2011

Duration:

90 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Carol Morley

Screenwriter:

Carol Morley

With:

Zawe Ashton, Alix Luka-Cain

Users say

0
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:5
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|14
1 person listening
A.M.S.

Saw the preivew at Wood Green which was particularly poignant - the cinema is bascially below Joyce's flat. It's stayed with me ever since and comes up in every conversation. It's an inspiring film with great London chracters who expose our capacity to remeber people in utterly different ways... my 2011 number one.

A.M.S.

Saw the preivew at Wood Green which was particularly poignant - the cinema is bascially below Joyce's flat. It's stayed with me ever since and comes up in every conversation. It's an inspiring film with great London chracters who expose our capacity to remeber people in utterly different ways... my 2011 number one.

Asphodele

This reminded me of Claire Denis's Beau Travail...lots of stars and yet not enough doc to be really interesting, not enough drama for a film...it may work on TV but talking heads and cinema only work in Woody Allen and not even then...shame as the subject matter is interesting and a lot more could have been done with it! Saw a lot of people yawning...

JC

The circumstances of this woman's death are certainly disturbing and haunting and it is intriguing to have her brought back to life when she had become little more than a half-forgotten tragedy. In short, you can see why the filmmaker felt compelled to make the film. Beyond that I don't really see that this is a particularly successful film. Joyce remains strangely absent from the film. Even those closest to her are hard-pressed to convey what she was really like. I personally found the reconstructions pretty inept: they were based on nothing but conjecture, were sentimental and seemed designed mainly to provide padding for this very slight story. I think it's a film that will divide viewers and I suspect a lot of people, like me, will be mystified by the so far uniformly 5 star reviews. Many are obviously drawn to the mysteriousness of this unknowable woman. I must say I left the cinema feeling that the story of the life behind the notorious death was, sadly, pretty underwhelming.

Andrew

My favourite film of 2011. And it tops off what's been a great year for British films.

Andrew

My favourite film of 2011. And it tops off what's been a great year for British films.

john o sullivan

I saw this at the Curzon with a Q and A with Carol and Zawe And youre right big reveal in the film is Joyce singing into her hairbrush Carolyn Crawford’s ‘My Smile is Just a Frown It brings back her truobled childhood,her once upon a time dream of making it as a singer. Carol picked the song knowing Joyce probally wouldnt have heard it The irony is the song was wrote for a competetion winner by Smokey Robinson The lady recorded 3 singles on Motown as her prize,then the dream was over Robinson would use the framework of this song on Tears of a clown,using the refereence to Pagalaci again I have little to add to youre excellent review only a few quibbles . People will leave thinking ill of her family who did hire a P.D. to find her. and puts the domestic abuse in the background. When it feels pivotal But heigh ho a must see

john o sullivan

I saw this at the Curzon with a Q and A with Carol and Zawe And youre right big reveal in the film is Joyce singing into her hairbrush Carolyn Crawford’s ‘My Smile is Just a Frown It brings back her truobled childhood,her once upon a time dream of making it as a singer. Carol picked the song knowing Joyce probally wouldnt have heard it The irony is the song was wrote for a competetion winner by Smokey Robinson The lady recorded 3 singles on Motown as her prize,then the dream was over Robinson would use the framework of this song on Tears of a clown,using the refereence to Pagalaci again I have little to add to youre excellent review only a few quibbles . People will leave thinking ill of her family who did hire a P.D. to find her. and puts the domestic abuse in the background. When it feels pivotal But heigh ho a must see

Sarah

Saw a sneak preview.. i'm still thinking about it.. what an amasing film..

Sarah

Saw a sneak preview.. i'm still thinking about it.. what an amasing film..