Zawe Ashton shines as Joyce Vincent in Dreams Of A Life tonight, Channel 4

by Lisa McGarry

Dreams of a Life

Zawe Ashton fronts a drama documentary on Channel 4 this evening, titled ‘Dreams Of A Life.’

The ‘Fresh Meat’ actress takes on the role of Joyce Carol Vincent in the story that is based on a real life story. Joyce was a Londoner, of Caribbean descent, who died in 2003 in her bedsit flat in Wood Green, North London.

Vincent’s body was not discovered for three long years, even though neighbours later admitted that they had noticed the smell of her decomposition. Joyce had previously lived in a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. What makes the story more worrying is that Vincent never had issues with drugs or alcohol and as a result, the discovery of her remains in 2006 sparked a huge media interest in her story and background.

dreams a life

When Joyce’s remains were eventually found, her heating and her TV were still on, yet newspapers couldn’t even get a photograph of the woman whose death they reported.

Now, ‘Dreams Of A Life’ examines who was Joyce Vincent and how could this happen in our modern day and age, which is supposed to be a time of advanced communication and information sharing?

In an attempt to find out, director Carol Morley tries to delve into Joyce’s life, by placing adverts in a number of local newspapers, by searching and trawling the web and she even advertises on the side of a London taxi. Eventually the information begins to trickle in and she starts to hear from former work colleagues, friends and even some former partners.

Throught their testimonies, stories and tales she starts to build a picture of the dead woman, and an insight into the world she inhabited. Morley’s film explores modern life and reveals how much and yet how little we may ever know each other.

Tune in tonight, 10PM, Channel 4 and leave your comments below….


  1. Jean Higgs on February 8, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Dreams of a Life Chanel 4 was a compelling and well made film, with the marvellous actor Zawe Ashton playing Joyce Carol Vincent.
    However, I felt as if the film did perhaps over emphasis the mystery of Joyce’s life and death and might have benefited from some more pointed and practical input.
    I was left wondering, why were the elder sisters not traced and interviewed? If they had not wanted this, it could have been explained in the film, thus tying a loose end.
    Also, she might have committed suicide, suddenly feeling bereft and hopeless, especially at Christmas time but this possibility wasn’t considered.
    She was treated in hospital in the film with an injection, a sedative I supposed – was this for an asthma or panic attack, it wasn’t clear, and it wasn’t mentioned that she had in fact taken shelter in a home for battered women in Harringay. All or any of these elements could have contributed directly or indirectly to her death.
    The film was good, but for me it could have delved deeper and tried to get to grips with facts that my have cast less shadow and more light upon this modern day tragedy.

  2. june on February 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

    I found this film chilling, enthrallling yet disturbing. what were the secrets that she kept hidden from all her friends? it seems as if she lead a double life. did she have sisters? did the police track them down? was she married?. the accounts given were from her fiends, but did they really know her? did they ever go to her house and seen how she lived? i think she was on the run due to the fact that she had been in a shelter for battered women. the film was good and i will re watch it, i think more digging in to joyces past could have been done. at the end of the day only joyce knew the secrets of her life. this film left you with so many unanswered queations

  3. Susan on February 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

    I am so very glad that Carol Morley decided to make this film. It just shows how alone someone can be. I was also shocked & disturbed to see that her so called friends, colleagues, lovers, family did nothing to look her up or even, when she was alive, really knew anything about her. It’s such a shame & so sad to realise that Joyce Vincent had no-one she felt she could turn to or talk to about anything. The fact that she gave her Bank Manager as next of kin, just shows how very alone she was.

    I also find it strange that even though Joyce was a victim of domestic abuse, no-one kept checking whether she was okay or not. There are lots of mistakes that have been identified with our system that I hope lessons have been learnt.

    I hope Joyce has now found peace & happiness as I don’t believe she had it when she was alive. RIP Joyce Carol Vincent.

  4. Kelly on February 8, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I really can’t get this story off my mind 🙁 the people that appeared in the movie who claimed to be former friends should also take responsibility rather than put all blame on Joyce. I’m sure this is not an end she had always aspired to. She was clearly a woman who needed more support than she ultimately received. Who were the people that she had wrapped Christmas presents for? Did they not even miss her absence & think to report it? As they were obviously in Joyce’s thoughts. I just feel there was a deep routed issue that made her the way she was in the end & she seemed to be looking for love even approaching former boyfriend “Alister” who had moved on 🙁 It would have been nice to know more about what her life was actually like as the movie itself didn’t answer many questions…however I understand this must have been difficult to achieve with people wanting to remain anonymous probably due to their guilt. Not a single persons in the movie described her as anything but friendly,kind & fun so why didn’t people care more?! She wasn’t a bad person. I just pray she is at peace now.

  5. Rona on February 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I can not get Joyce out of my head and still feel upset after watching Dreams of a life last night. I also would like to know if the sisters were contacted by police or film makers. She was wrapping presents so someone was expecting to see her that Christmas. What was the cause of death? maybe I missed it but dont think we were told.
    Left us with lots of questions.
    Oh to answer Jean Higgs
    I understood that the injection was because Joyce was in pain and in hospital for an ulcer – when she gave bank manager as next of kin.

  6. Rona on February 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    just read other web sites and and others say that the sister had hired a private detective to find Joyce before she died and he was still looking after she died. The sisters did attend the inquest. They and an ex fiance did not want to appear in the film, so they are not mentioned at all. Very misleading as it lets us believe her family did not want to see her. The rent was part paid by benefits but it is still amazing no one was concerned that she was 3 years behind with her rent. And what about the electric – why wasn’t it cut off or the bailiffs sent round.

  7. Alice on February 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    It seemed to me that her clique of friends were ‘fairweather’ at best. A lot of emphasis in the documentary was on how beautiful/striking/alluring she was, and they mentioned she had one close female friend and a large group of male friends. It seems these men were friends with her because they wanted more, and she lacked any ‘true’ friends. This could have added to her isolation, because as soon as she was ‘off the market’ the friends disappeared and when that violent relationship ended she had no one.

  8. Kate Miller on February 8, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you so much for show this story, I have been working with woman for the last 15 yrs who are Fleeing DV, it can be hard as sometimes woman have to cut off contact with family and friends for months and in some cases year in order for the perpetrator not to find them moving from a refuge/Safe House they will only have a resettlement worker for 6 months when they have moved into Independent accommodation,, but she should have been flag up as vulnerable and had on going floating support, its seems she move and was forgotten about, PS its only going to get worst as they government is on a mission to cut back on valuable support services

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