An eerie ambiguity permeates this documentary of a woman whose life was sensationalized posthumously after apparently not being a victim of foul play.
Carol Morley's well made Dreams of a Life chronicles Joyce Carol Vincent and plays out like a mystery with a certain palpable interpretative, unnerving power to it. The 38-year-old biracial woman was discovered in her London apartment with wrapped Christmas gifts and the television on. An autopsy wasn't feasible because nearly three years passed before she (what was left of her) was found.
Photographs, recreations relative to piecing together Joyce's existence are interspersed with talking heads closest to Joyce (including colleagues, friends, neighbors and former lovers, especially a deeply distraught Martin Lister in a warm confessional turn, coming to terms with her demise). Alix Luka-Cain is the youthful Joyce, while the adult Zawe Ashton proves quite effective in Morley's interesting diverse vantage point examination where much speculation exists from the fact that a bad relationship may have led to or brought on more physical debilitating issues.
The aspect of the holiday presents helps provide a haunting effect to something wrenching and affecting enough to linger afterwards; the uncomfortable nature of the enterprise extends to modern single life in a large city and the ease of a society losing track of someone who presumably had much going for her. Whether an impressive vocal turn or many of the kinds of questions raised in a way that isn't easy for those most identifiable to Joyce's standing, there's much creatively composed into an ultimately undiagnosed life that melts with an intriguing, simmering humanity.
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