The Possibilities Are Endless

Like a lot of people I am sure, I have heard of Edwyn Collins and I can name one song. Girl Like You. After that, everything becomes a blur. I can’t tell you exactly what time frame his career spans, or name an album he made. But I remember the musician fondly simply because of an overly amplified and electronic guitar riff.

So when I first heard about this documentary, and the fact that it details his recovery from a brain haemorrhage in 2005, it was with a tinge of sadness. Sadly though, even though the reviews all stated this was a stunning piece of non fiction story telling that you needed to see. The tale of recovery of a not overly well known Scottish musician was never going to see a wide big screen release.

Edwyn Collins & Grace Maxwell - The Possibilities Are Endless

There can be no doubt, it is an interesting documentary. Even if you are not into the music of Collins, his personality is such, and comes through, that you really warm and like him. He seems a thoroughly and genuinely nice chap. And the old exclamation of bad things always happening to good people really does ring true. The relationship between himself and his wife Grace is also an absolute joy to behold and a real embodiment of true love.

Sadly though, while Collins and Grace really do provide a very engaging focal point, I felt they were let down so badly by the production style. The first quarter of the documentary is essentially our two leads narrating the introduction to their story over a series of unconnected, random images: sheep running in fields, trees blowing in the wind, kids playing in the streets. And it just doesn’t make sense. While I think that lack of sense is the point, I’m sure the idea is to make you as confused and bewildered by what’s happening as Collins was after the haemorrhage, all that really happens is that your mind spends too long searching for answers, shutting out the world around it. Concentrating on the images and not the sounds and so I missed a lot of the opening story that is audibly laid over the top.

The idea was good but it’s execution failed.

Edwyn Collins - Documentary - The Possibilities Are Endless

However, as the story continues and the shooting style returns to a more tradition documentary, with Collins and Grace shown on screen and the tone shifting from reflective to descriptive. Collins presenting the story of life post and Grace the life pre, bleed. And they work together brilliantly to really give you not only a true flavour of the man and what makes him tick but also, present the story of change, acceptance and ultimately slow recovery.

It’s at this point that the documentary comes alive, and starts to overwhelm you with a real sense of courage, passion and perseverance. You warm to Collins, and the strength he shows to never once complain, to never once ask why, or even see this as a hurdle, but rather as life taking an annoying but new path. It’s a lesson in humility that jumps off the screen and makes you question a lot of things in your own life.

The more of the story that was presented in this way, the more it drew me in and the more I found it fascinating, upsetting and frustrating all at once. I ended up longing so much to help Collins. Wishing him a recovery. A normal life.

Edwyn Collins - Recording Studio - The Possibilities Are Endless

Yet, while the story drew me in with immense power, I also found it very hard to accept from the point of view that everything seemed to follow no time line and be just a little bit too good to be true. While I appreciate they may not want you to see the bad days, it’s portrayed that they almost don’t exist. You never really feel sure whether a week is a day or a year, everything just seems to travelling constantly, positively and linearly. And this slight sense of not being presented the whole picture creates a slight lack of trust.

Over all though, it’s a fascinating story about a man who is obviously intriguing. But I can’t help but feel that there was a better, deeper story of his recovery lurking. Don’t get me wrong, The Possibilities Are Endless is well worth seeing, because as a story of mind over matter, so to speak, it packs a decent punch, it just has a few too many weaknesses to really be a knockout though.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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