With 100 Comments, Posted under Life & Style
Yesterday I posted the widely circulated trailer for the British docudrama “Dreams of a Life”; a haunting story about a woman who allegedly went three years before anyone noticed she had died.
That premise alone is enough to make anyone pause in their tracks. But something about the version presented seemed overly simplistic. I mean yes – the job of a trailer is to tease the audience into wanting to see the whole film (and I definately do want to see it), but something just felt off.
So I did a bit of digging.
While having a discussion online about the story, one reader from England shared this with me:
From a BBC Radio 4 report I listened to, commentators were quite cross about this documentary because it was sensationalist and glossed over some facts whilst overemphasizing others – in short, it was very unbalanced.
Joyce was in fact a drifter and went in and out of people’s lives. People didn’t fret when she went away for ages at a time because it was part of her ordinary behavior.
Also, a major omission was the fact that Joyce’s sister had hired a Private Investigator to trace her well before she died and he carried on investigating until well after death.
There was no mention of this in the documentary and the focus was more on how everyone noticed Joyce, yet nobody noticed her at all …. Sure its an abstract concept that offers ripe intellectual fodder – but it completely veils the reality that people cared for and were looking for Joyce; her family – and Joyce cared enough to be wrapping xmas gifts for someone, probably them.
Ok so that changes everything.
To say that no one noticed she was dead for 3 years is a great and provocative spin for a movie, but not the entire truth. Her family desperately looked for her, for quite some time. And you don’t have to take my word for it.
When questioned – Carol Morley, the film maker admits:
At one point they [her family] hired a private detective and approached the Salvation Army to find Joyce. One of the sisters said that they should have hired me as I did a better job than the detective they hired. They were devastated by the loss of Joyce.
..I think many people, including myself, would realise that we too are not in touch with people, with family members, and often assume they those family members are off living a busy life.
Several sources also address the questions surrounding the logistics of her death. Below, I’ve assembled some key points:
- She was a victim of domestic violence living in a flat set up by an organization that deals with victims.
- With subsidized housing, part of her rent continued to be paid.
- The mail was dropped directly into the apt through a slot on the door so that’s why no one noticed the pile up.
- She lived in a seedy area where the trash bins and hallways were normally rank. Once they’d even found a dead junkie’s body in the elevator! So the smell of her decomposing body was assumed to be coming from the bins.
- It was a noisy building frequented by drug addicts, so the sound of the tv wasn’t anything out of the norm.
- No one contacted the domestic violence organization so they didn’t think there was any reason to check in on her. This practice has been updated since her story made the news. Now they visit tenants at least once a year.
- Whenever neighbors knocked at the door, no-one answered, so they assumed it was unoccupied.
- Both her parents are dead, but as stated before, her sisters were looking for her.
- The director respected the wishes of Vincent’s sisters and an ex-fiancé, who chose not to take part in the film. So their side of this story is omitted.
- They discovered her corpse only because – with her rent two years behind – the housing trust finally decided to repossess it.
Any way you slice it, it’s a bleak story. But the way it’s being marketed has caused many to (erroneously) assume negligence on the part of her family.
Coincidentally, in the middle of writing this post – I stopped and called my mom; just to make sure she was okay. It wasn’t until after we got off the phone that I realized why I’d felt so compelled to check in on her.
All those hours reading about Joyce had really gotten to me,
And I suspect that reaction will probably be the legacy of Ms. Vincent; she’s a reminder to all of us… to stay connected to those we love.
*While she is played by actress Zawe Ashton in the movie, below are pictures of the real woman behind this story.