Friday, 12 April 2013

Dreams of a Life

UK Release: 16th December 2011
Watched on Recorded TV: Sunday 10th February 2013
Rating: 15
Genre: Documentary, Drama
Runtime: 1hr 35mins
IMDb Plot 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.

My Review: I don’t often watch documentaries, but when I do I make sure that they are of the highest quality. And that’s why I had no doubts when I sat down to watch this that this would continue that theme. After watching it being reviewed on the BBC’s Film 2011 programme I knew that someday I’d need to see this. Danny Leigh isn’t what you’d call an easily pleased critic but when not only did he rave about Dreams of a Life, but so did Claudia, then I knew that here we had something truly brilliant. 
And it is. It’s an astounding piece of filmmaking. But it’s also so heartbreakingly tragic it leaves me with a bad feeling whenever I think about it. Not because of the documentary itself as, while it is of course biased and there are holes, it is incredibly moving and well done. No, it’s because of its content. The fact that a woman with friends and family can die alone in her flat and only be found three years later because of unpaid bills is sickening. And it’s all the details that make it so unbearable. The fact that the TV was still on when they found her, that she had been wrapping christmas presents for her loved ones, that neighbours had complained of a ‘smell’ and had done nothing to investigate. Little by little as the film pieces together her life it is with a sense of tragedy as well as trying to piece together what happened. It’s just an unthinkable situation and that’s what everyone involved seemed to get across. Just the desperate awfulness to this story.
And yet there seemed to be an aim that, through this film, it might raise awareness to try and prevent this from ever happening again. It’s attempting, somehow, to make something positive out of it, by asking friends and neighbours to look out for one another. Check up on each other now and then, make sure there’re OK. Because it’s horrendous how often people aren’t found for long amounts of time - especially in cities such as London. It’s just so desperately sad. 
Zawe Ashton who plays Joyce in the reconstructions, portraying her at different stages in her life, really makes this film hit home even more. I loved her as Vod in Fresh Meat but here she does what many actresses I think may find very difficult to do. She brings to life a person who died in such terrible circumstances, and by doing that helps us to remember the woman herself rather than what happened after her death. And that was the most captivating thing about this film: the piecing together of this woman’s life, a celebration if you will. As it is important to remember Joyce as a person, before she became a headline.
It really does stay with you.

Score: 8/10

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