Edwyn Collins suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke in 2005, stripping him of the best part of his memory and his ability to communicate. His aphasia left him only able to say yes, no, his wife’s name, Grace Maxwell and the possibilities are endless. This film follows Edwyn’s difficult but remarkable journey towards recovery and playing music again, culminating in 2013’s Understated.
The opening scene shows Edwyn performing A Girl Like You on the Conan O’Brien show, 1995, alongside an interview that shows Edwyn as charismatic, charming and confident. This is instantly juxtaposed with underwater scenes, set to unsettling drones and Edwyn trying to piece together words and sentences. Throughout the film the feeling of discomfort persists, with directors James Hall and Edward Lovelace reflecting Edwyn’s difficulties through almost abstract shots, slow and cyclical music and most poignantly through unedited speech. Symbolism is rife, the isolated shots of Scotland representing the loneliness brought on from lack of communication, the lone seaman far out in choppy waters expressing Edwyn’s difficulties and the one-antlered stag hinting at the effect the hemorrhage has caused. It’s over half an hour before any of the dialogue is matched with a face, only adding to the unsettled nature.
Before having seen the film one would expect a recovery suited to Oliver Sack’s Musicophilia, such as that of aphasia sufferer, Samuel S., who recovers his lost speech through music therapy. This, however, is not the case, and there is a huge amount of time between the stroke and stepping foot in his West Heath Studios. The scene is set with quick fire bursts of archive footage that carry heavy weight and are not looked back on with rose tinted glasses, reflecting the overwhelming rush of emotion the experience brought with it. As Edwyn describes, there was no eureka moment, but instead a gradual and difficult process of relearning everything that was lost.
This slow and gradual process mirrors Edwyn and Grace’s early days, described by Grace as no rush of love, but a slow realisation that they prefered each others company more than anyone else’s. This, rather than Edwyn’s recovery or his comeback, is the real focus of the film and is a heartwarming story of the love between the two. Grace’s determination to help Edwyn’s recovery is inspiring, her patience enduring and she is clearly needed every step of the way. The band joke to Grace later, when in the studio recording Understated, calling her Sharon Osbourne, but the contrast is vast, and shown particularly well when only a few minutes earlier in a duet where Grace has fill in for Edwyn’s right arm strumming the guitar at a live radio show, his first live public appearance.
The Possibilities Are Endless not only shows the difficulties that Edwyn and Grace have been through, but reflects these onto the audience through difficult and uncomfortable moments in shots, music and dialogue. The soundtrack is, as it would be, great, but not just in Edwyn’s performance, the sound design and ambient sections are just as powerful in setting a mood as archive material is in recalling a time and place. The results are audibly and visually stunning, while the narrative is inspiring, immersing you in the lives of Edwyn and Grace and expressing their journey in a way that is rare for a documentary.
The film is out on general release from the 7th November and touring with talks from Edwyn. See dates and buy tickets here, or buy the DVD direct from Pulse Films. The soundtrack, featuring new and previously unreleased material, is released on November 10th and can be pre-ordered from AED on CD and vinyl.