“I’m searching for the truth… Some sweet day, we’ll get there in the end.” Edwyn Collins – ‘Searching For The Truth’ (2010)
This search for ‘the truth’ – and the journey of discovery that it entails – is a prominent theme of The Possibilities Are Endless. A film by Edward Lovelace and James Hall, it is an incredible documentary centred around Edwyn Collins’ inspired recovery from a stroke in 2005. Left on the brink of death, doctors weren’t hopeful of a recovery and Edwyn was left with no movement in his right side and suffering from Aphasia, a condition that affects the brain and causes the sufferer problems when using language. Upon waking up, the only two phrases Edwyn could say were “Grace Maxwell” (the name of his beloved wife) and “The Possibilities Are Endless…”
I’ve been a big fan of Edwyn Collins from a young age, with memories of dancing around the living room with my dad to ‘Rip It Up’, ‘Adidas World’ and ‘A Girl Like You’, but looking back is not what this film is about. Having had his memories and ideas effectively deleted from his brain as a result of the stroke, Collins says he has “no nostalgia” and is entirely focused on the now, and hope for the future.
Beautifully shot on 35mm film, The Possibilities Are Endless focuses on the feelings of both Edwyn and Grace after the stroke, rather than the chronological process of recovery. With ongoing pastoral imagery reflecting Edwyn’s struggle – alongside glowing lens flares and the potent grainy effect of the analogue film – Lovelace and Hall have created something visually stunning. Thought provoking symbolism is evident in every breathtaking image of Edwyn and Grace’s beloved Helmsdale: the fisherman’s wife staring out to sea, wondering whether her husband will return, as Grace had wondered if Ed would come back from his non-reactive state; a little boy struggling to reach the surface of a stormy sea, as Edwyn had felt he was drowning in his mind; the story of the Green Finch that a young Ed had rescued mirroring how Grace “set him free” by being the driving force behind his recovery. Collins’ journey is reflected in every heart-rendingly prominent image we are presented with.
The way the film is structured appears to effectively portray Edwyn’s state of mind – it is haphazard, non sequential. As we catch fleeting glimpses of Collins’ past, they are merely scrambled snapshots, just as they must appear to him as he tries to reassemble his life. Clips of interviews and footage of gigs appear to be almost cut and pasted together, like a scrapbook of memories. Although there isn’t a chronological narrative, the film is presented in a way that discreetly reflects the process of recovery: whilst the beginning is noticeably out of focus, by the end of the film everything has become clear, both visually and mentally, for Edwyn. Lovelace and Hall have managed to capture this journey of recovery in a subtle, yet affecting, way. With an abundance of stirring natural imagery and thoughtful editing, Edwyn’s story is utterly captivating.
However, The Possibilities is not simply a tale of recovery; it is also a heart-warming love story. Not once do we get the impression that Collins has undertaken his journey alone; Grace is unwaveringly by his side. The story is told from both of their perspectives, and the film is filled with some incredibly touching insights into their relationship: in footage of Edwyn’s Maida Vale Mastertapes session last year (which I was lucky enough to attend), we see him forming chords on his guitar with his left hand as Grace strums the strings: a perfect team in action. In no way, however, does The Possibilities ever risk being overly sentimental. The unrelenting humour and charisma of the protagonists is consistently apparent throughout. Whilst the couple sit discussing Collins’ new album, fondly bickering, Grace is clipping her husband’s nails (“Ouch, I felt that!”) – a particularly poignant juxtaposition of their enduring wit and character with the life-shattering reality of what they have experienced. As Edwyn says: “Love used to be lust. Complex. Now, love is real.”
I can’t possibly mention all of the film’s highlights, or every time I laughed or cried, as every single second was one of sheer beauty. And, as someone who works with people with Aphasia, I could be here forever discussing just how touching it was… But The Possibilities Are Endless is an uplifting work of art: Lovelace and Hall, alongside Grace and Ed, have created something incredibly moving and visually exquisite. Despite the odd tear in my eye, what I have been left with is a feeling of joy and inspiration; Edwyn has fought his way to the surface of a stormy sea, with Grace as his aid, and there is hope for a future in which the possibilities are indeed endless.
The Possibilities Are Endless premieres at the London Film Festival on 11th October and will be on general release from 7th November. http://www.thepossibilities.co.uk/