Dreams of a Life

Synopsis: 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.
Director(s): Carol Morley
Production: Strand Releasing
  7 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
95 min

Some days you would get good

stories, others not so good.

When the story of Joyce

was brought back to the office,

I think there was

a stunned silence for a minute.

I don't think anyone had really heard

a story like that before.

Reporters always get asked,

"What's the best story you've done?"

Or the strongest story

or the worst story or whatever.

And this is my like clutch of ones

that you would remember

through a lifetime.

'You wanted to write it

and tell other people.

'That's that's the power of it, really.

'Ali said to me, "You go down

to the inquest and cover it."'

'We knew pretty quickly

that it was out of the ordinary.

'I worked at the paper for ten years

and there wasn't a story like it.

'There was such a remarkable lack

of information about Joyce Vincent.

'It was so hard

to find anything about her.'

Miss Vincent?

Miss Vincent,

we've a repossession order!

'It always struck me as strange

'how there's just swarms of thousands

of people going around their business,

'getting their shopping,

meeting their friends

'and all this time

there was a woman in the ats above

and nobody knew that she was there.

Trying to let her know

there's somebody at the door.

We've a repossession order!

'You really wanted

to find out more about this woman.'

It was a story that everyone wanted

but no one could get.

# Watch me fall from grace

# Disappear with no trace

# As I try to erase you

# Feel the pain and watch me bleed

# Surely this is not what I need #

Hello, it's Carol here, Carol Morley,

phoning about Joyce.

I'll try your mobile.

I'll try you again. Bye.

I'm looking for any infomation,

no matter how minor,

about Joyce Vincent.

'I was sitting at home one day

and I don't know if you do this,

'you just put someone's name

into Google.

'And I don't know what made me do it.

I just put Joyce's name in.

There was loads of links

to all these news stories.

I thought, "Ooh, that's a coincidence.

Someone else with Joyce's name."

'Then I scrolled down

and I saw your advert

'and I thought, "Oh, crikey.

It must be the same person."'

I got your email on Friends Reunited

asking, "Did I know Joyce Vincent?"

And straight away it was just

hairs up on the back of my neck, arms

and it was quite a shock, actually.

When you called I was at work

and I'd had a couple of missed calls,

anonymous calls,

and I thought they were my mum,

so I was just ignoring them.

Then I thought, "That's the fourth call.

I'd better take this one."

And the line broke a little bit,

so I was thinking,

"Did she just say Joyce is dead?"

Lots of people I've met

that knew her read the story

and didn't realise it was Joyce.


- They couldn't...

They didn't identify the victim - dead,

lonely, sad - with the Joyce they knew?


- Isn't that interesting?

'It's even more interesting then.'

I was just amazed that

we'd not heard this from anybody

or nobody had realised.

How did they not know

from the electricity bills?

'I wrote to the utilities because I thought,

'normally if you don't pay your bill,

you get cut-off.

'I wrote to the local authority

because I thought,

"'Well, she must have had

council tax to pay."

'They sort of didn't want to know.

'They washed their hands of it.

"Nothing to do with us."'

- 'I found friends...'

- 'How did you find them?'

Because the police couldn't

and the authorities couldn't?

So how did you? Clever girl.

I mean, you'd like to think

that everyone's got someone

who would kind of look out for them.

'And it just seemed remarkable,

'given all the information

we had about Joyce,

'although it was quite limited,

'it just seemed strange

and highly unusual

'that there was no one there for her.'

It's just tragic.

You know, and the fact

that she was left all alone.

They said it's 2003

when she died, yeah?

And then this is '06. Wow!

"Probably died of natural causes."

"The only way she could be identified

"was by comparing dental records

"with a holiday photo of her smiling."


Flies and a smell and nobody noticed.

"Skeleton of Joyce

found on the sofa with telly still on."

There's not even a picture

of her in there.

It's surprising they didn't put

a photo of her in the paper

because that would be one reason

to have the article in there.

There was nothing there

that would give it away.

You know, just the name Joyce,

"skeleton of Joyce".

I mean, that could be anyone.

Her bed-sit looks like a hovel as well,

doesn't it?

Have you been to the bed-sit?

Is it as shitty as it looks?

It's bad enough reaching 40,

let alone being 40 and alone.

It's awful, shocking!

It was so horrendous, you know,

that she was left,

found in front of her television

that was still on for so many years,

and nobody knows this.

Yeah, just gained access.

No, it's horrible. It's annoying.

Can't believe it.

Just to be sad and...

I think it was an MP

who was absolutely disgusted

about the fact that we could just allow

someone to disappear off the radar.

I don't know what in the end

caused her to die alone in her at.

She wasn't alcoholic, she didn't smoke,

she didn't take drugs.

I don't know what made her

the Joyce Vincent that I knew

and I don't know what took her

to the Joyce Vincent that died.

I remember the story.

I heard it on the news.

I remember the whole thing.

Didn't recognise it as her.

I think that was

the terribly sad thing, really.

That, you know,

no one had reported her missing.

Worst of all, her family

hadn't reported her missing.

Four sisters!

Four sisters!

I don't know why

I'm always stuck on that significance

of three years

and nobody's come looking for you.

But it is that. I reckon

that says a lot for the beginning.

Some of the details

that oated around early on

were mysterious.

'"Ms Vincent's local MP

and members of her family said

"they want a full investigation

into how she died."'

The trouble with this is

that there was no...

You can't establish the cause of death

without a body.

I think somebody killed her.

It's a body melting into the carpet,


That's... That's just... It's grim.

There's nothing there for us now,

just a fair old mark on the carpet.

Oh, my God.

I think she was murdered, you know.

It's too clean cut.

If it's wet and if it's not yours,

you can't take any risks.

'The police said

there was nothing suspicious,

'but unless you knew what happened,

you will always think

'there's a possibility

of some kind of foul play in there.'

'It does seem strange,

everything about it.

'She was in that at.

Nobody kind of questioned it.

'An inquest last week

returned an open verdict

'but heard that a police investigation had

ruled out any suspicious circumstances.'

'It's one of those inquests

where it's difficult to find answers,

'which is immediately frustrating.

'You have this mystery that's thrown up

and you just want to know more.'

With all this DNA stuff,

testing and what have you,

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Carol Morley

Carol Anne Morley (born 14 January 1966) is an English film director, screenwriter and producer. She is best known for her semi-documentary Dreams of a Life, released in 2011, about Joyce Carol Vincent, who died in her North London bedsit in 2003, but was not discovered until 2006.Her older brother is the music journalist, critic and producer Paul Morley. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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