Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dreams of a Life (documentary, 2011)

I watched this documentary this morning and I must say it is quite haunting, troubling and sad.  It's the story of Joyce Vincent, who one day in December 2003, bought some groceries, came home to her London flat, fixed herself supper, wrapped some Christmas presents, turned on her television, sat on the floor and leaned back against her couch, and died at the age of 38.  The story isn't of how or why she died, because no one knows.  Instead, it is the story of what happened after, which was nothing.  No one knew about it and no one seemed to notice she had disappeared--not even her family.  Her body was discovered three years later when authorities tried to evict her for failing to pay her rent.  The television was still on.

Dreams of a Life is made up mostly of interviews with people who had known her, as well as dramatized clips using actors (Vincent was portrayed by Zawe Ashton).  She had led quite an interesting life, having actually met several famous people, and had apparently briefly flirted with attempting to begin a singing career.

I saw it on Netflix, of course.  If you have Netflix streaming and have 90 minutes to spend on a story that is both fascinating and somewhat depressing, I recommend it.


  1. I generally eschew depressing movies. But that reminds me of a TV show I saw recently. I think it was about those guys that do biohazard cleanups, like at crime scenes and such. In the scene I remember, the cleanup crew was clearing out an apartment in New York where the tenant had died. He lived alone, and he had some low level job in the service industry. He wasn't missed right away, and the first indication something was wrong was when the tenants in the apartment below noticed odors and other substances and reported it. I don't remember if any family members came forward to claim his body, but nobody wanted to claim his possessions, and the crew had no choice but to throw it all out.

    Anyway, in the course of cleaning up this guy's apartment, the crew found his fashion drawings. He had stacks of artist pads and notebooks of drawings and paintings, and they all seemed quite good, to me at least. It was obvious that he had aspirations of breaking into the fashion industry someday.

    But he apparently never made it. And the cleanup crew tossed all those drawings into the trash with the rest of the refuse.

    Kind of sad. I can't imagine watching a whole movie about that.

  2. I don't know if anyone claimed any of this woman's stuff, they didn't say. But they did show dramatizations of a clean-up crew in biohazard suits cleaning up the apartment. One of the items they found scattered on the floor were a large number of old R&B 45s that she liked to listen to. One of them was still on her old record player. The groceries she had brought home were still mostly left out on her kitchen counter--one item was a quart of milk she had apparently just bought and taken a few swallows from. Strange and sad.