Unchained at SXSW: “Dreams of a Life”

“Dreams of a Life” is an imaginative and multilayered quest to go beyond the newspaper reports and solve the mystery of who thirty-eight year old Joyce Vincent was and why she lay undiscovered for three years after her death in one of the busiest parts of London.

First off, my God, people check in on your loved ones consistently. The haunting reenactments of the actress playing Joyce Carol Vincent on screen were remarkable. As a viewer who really only heard of the film via Shadow and Act, I was instantly drawn into the portrait of this beautiful, yet sad woman. What did I learn? I now have a greater appreciation for filmmakers who take on depicting the real life accounts of a person. The structure of the film was very risky. How do you bring visual images to the stories of a dead woman’s friends and co-workers? How much can you stretch the truth to create a cinematic experience and not an “E! True Hollywood Story”? There are points in the film where I really thought the actress was Joyce, especially in this particular scene which was inter-cut in the film of the woman sitting down to wrap her Christmas presents, which was how the officials found the real Joyce’s body after she died. Audiences may be unsettled by the fact that the film does not reveal the true cause of Joyce’s death, but to me that wasn’t the point. This young woman had abusive boyfriends, severe asthma and ulcers, was estranged from her family and very much guarded with her past. Her body was so badly decomposed after three years that the investigative officials may never know the truth. In my eyes, the filmmaker Carol Morley were able to give a public acknowledgment of Joyce’s short life. I know I will never forget her story.

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