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  • Production
  • 12A
  • Documentary, Drama
  • 2011
  • 95 mins

Dreams Of A Life

Dreams Of A Life, written and directed by Carol Morley


When 38-year-old Joyce Vincent died in her London bedsit in 2003, nobody noticed for three years. Dreams of a Life seeks to retell Joyce's story through the people who once knew her and reimagined scenes from her life.


Dreams of a Life is the first feature documentary film by award-winning artist and filmmaker Carol Morley. Morley was inspired to make the film after stumbling across a newspaper article which reported the discovery of Joyce's body but no personal information other than the fact that she had died with the television on while wrapping Christmas presents. Morley decided on the spot that she had to make a film about Joyce - she couldn't leave her to be forgotten.

It took five years to track down Joyce's former friends, lovers and colleagues. The result is a moving cautionary tale of our times which calls into question how much we can ever really know another human being.

Morley was joined on the project by her long-time collaborator Cairo Cannon, co-producing with James Mitchell (Wener Herzog's My Best Friend), and award-winning film editor Chris Wyatt (Dead Man's Shoes and This Is England).


'Haunting, compassionate and inventive' - Dave Calhoun, Time Out

'Nothing at the London film festival has lingered in my mind like this' - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

'Hauntingly unforgettable' - Fionnuala Halligan, Screen


We round up what people have been saying about Carol Morley's powerful documentary Dreams Of A Life, produced by Film4.

Dreams Of A Life is a film made in response to a scarcely believable article director Carol Morley read in a newspaper – about a woman's body which lay undisturbed in her flat for three years, as the television flickered and letters piled up in the hall. Released in 2011, the film has been greatly acclaimed – we share some of the most notable reactions.

Sandra Hebron, artistic director of The London Film Festival

“One of the things I liked so much about the film is that it is very sensitive to this woman whose life she's uncovering - and actually, the woman at the heart of the film is something of a mystery at the beginning of the film, and one of the things that Carol preserves, if you like, is some sense of mystery still for her at the end. We feel like we've got to know something about this woman, through people's recollections and memories and reconstructions, but actually there's still something quite unknowable about her, and I like that very much.”

Martin Lister, Joyce Vincent's ex-boyfriend

"I was staggered and apprehensive when Carol Morley first asked me to be in Dreams of a Life. However, Carol Morley's enthusiastic personality and sensitive approach to this sad story, together with her dogged tenacity in piecing together Joyce's life, was both impressive and reassuring to me."

Peter Bradshaw, Guardian film critic

“All the lonely people… in their London flats. Iain Sinclair and Will Self have popularised the concept of psycho-geography; Carol Morley is attempting something like psycho-archaeology, the resurrection of a dead soul from the compacted strata of loneliness, failed relationships and broken contacts. Perhaps, like Schrödinger's cat in its box, there are thousands upon thousands of people who are both alive and dead in their flats this desperately lonely city. Oh, how we once laughed at Helen Fielding's great creation Bridget Jones, the panicky singleton who worries that she will "finally die, fat and alone, and be found three weeks later half-eaten by alsatians". Three weeks? Dreams Of A Life dissolves that joke in bitter tears.”

Carol Morley, director of Dreams Of A Life

“The image of the television flickering over her decomposing body haunted me as I got off the train on to the crowded platform. In a city such as London, home to 8 million people, how could someone's absence go unnoticed for so long? Who was Joyce Vincent? What was she like? How could she have been forgotten?”

Dave Calhoun, Time Out film editor

“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.”

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Neelam Bakshi, Lee Colley, Zawe Ashton, Frances Cooper
  • Director: Carol Morley
  • Screen Writer: Carol Morley
  • Producer: James Mitchell, Cairo Cannon
  • Photographer: Lynda Hall, Mary Farbrother
  • Composer: Barry Adamson

The bottom line

Dreams Of A Life was released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th December 2011.

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