LFF Film Review: Dreams of A Life

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Broken Briton

This extraordinary, depressing tale is taken up by Carol Morley who does rather better than the police in finding a retinue of Vincent’s friends and acquaintances, ready to tell the dead woman’s story.

One of the first points made in this troubling film, is that official channels comprehensively failed in finding a single person who could vouch for the deceased. How could this happen? Why didn’t anyone miss Joyce? These are urgent, necessary questions. The answer, witnesses suggest, partially in their own defence, is that Vincent was as detached from the actors in her life as the state’s institutions were from her. The result is an uncomfortable study in anomie and isolation. It’s the documentarian turned detective; a task made difficult by the subject’s enigmatic aura. “She was like a figment of all our imaginations,” notes one contributor. So what hope that Morley can get some answers? Some, as it turns out.

Vincent paid a high posthumous price for her lack of social capital; a person who wasn’t integral to anyone’s life, either by choice or misfortune, and so slipped away unnoticed. Morley effectively combines testimonials with dramatised vignettes, with Vincent played by Zawe Ashton, that tease out the contradictions and flaws in her elusive character.

It’s a highly engrossing piece of psychological profiling – a person rebuilt from reminiscence and regret. We meet the woman who in the words of one former lover “had no past and no future”, an almost surreal assessment, but you believe it. She gave little of herself, dropped in and out of people’s lives, had few enduring relationships, yet, in almost Forrest Gump like fashion, managed to make a deep impression and share moments with the likes of Captain Sensible, Issac Hayes and Nelson Mandela.

Morley’s technique is indulgent but effective. There’s a sense we’re foraging through the tit-bits that Vincent left behind, heightened by scenes of forensic detectives rooting through the flat post-mortem, lifting up a dusty shoe that we’ve seen Joyce take off a moment earlier in flashback, opening the Christmas gifts she wrapped in her last hours. The gruesome scene – a blackened core that was once a fruit, a flat covered in cobwebs and dust, that charcoal stain on the rug, provide the mystery that drives the narrative. It’s unbearably sad. This is what the opening of Cameron’s Titanic would have felt like, had what followed meant anything.

Pages: 1 2 3

Directed by: Carol Morley

Country: UK

Year: 2011

Running Time: 90 mins


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