The Possibilities Are Endless (2014) Directed by James Hall & Edward Lovelace

This documentary and its main character Edwyn Collins were like lines of someone else's favorite songs I had overheard but never really listened to. I do like Orange Juice, but I had never actively found out anything about the band and I had not really taken in their role in the birth of indie rock in Britain and Scotland. The Possibilities Are Endless felt like finding a missing puzzle piece. Lucky that I found it although I had already hung the picture without the corner. It also made me yearn for Scotland.

Yet, The Possibilities Are Endless isn't really an informative rock documentary in the traditional sense. There is no building of the rock god, the mythical special one who shines more brightly than anyone else. The documentary deals in visual narration that is very special in this context. Maybe, it could be likened to the way Tree of Life (2011) unravels its visceral story. The film illustrates the sense of time passing and not passing – there is a playful approach to time, which doesn't appear linear or even causal.

The gist of The Possibilities Are Endless is the incredible human survival instinct: willing oneself to come back to being a speaking and singing person – a creative self. Edwyn Collins suffered a cerebral haemorrhage in 2005. Also, the documentary reveals the meaningfulness and power of another person's closeness in the recovery process. At times it feels like Grace Maxwell is piecing her husband together, holding pieces of his past close to him. This movie is a beautiful demonstration of the fragility of the self and at the same time it showcases the endurance and flexibility of identity and the prevailing need to construct one.

Me and Edwyn Collins have a long and fractured relationship going on. It's a relationship that's never really been consummated on any serious level. I do remember sharing a bottle of vodka with Edwyn backstage after an Orange Juice gig, way back in the earlyish 1980's (it was during the Rip It Up album tour). More recently I ordered my son a Postcard Records t-shirt from Edwyn's webpage. A note from Edwyn saying thanks on the back of a postcard of one of his wonderful bird illustrations. But this is merely direct contact. The real meat on the bones of my relationship with Edwyn is the influence his wonderful band Orange Juice had on me as an early teen growing up in suburban London. It wasn't just the fact Orange Juice were on the deliriously independent and kilt bearing Postcard label, or the fact that their sound of Young Scotland was unlike anything that had been around before, or the fact that Orange Juice were officially the coolest looking band ever (or at least it seemed so in my early teenage years). Those things mattered of course. More so for me it was how Orange Juice's effeminate, anti-rockist stance and sense of independence inspired me to pick up a guitar, embrace that difference in me, take an unconventional view on life an art and go on my own rocky path to a musical valhalla. Edwyn was a touchstone to aspire too. You Can't Hide Your Love Forever still remains one of my favourite ever records (and album sleeves too). They call me Grandpa Indie, yet so much of my early indie years were down to Edwyn's influence. Postcard and Orange Juice were the founders of a certain type of indie music that still resonates around the upper echelons of popular music today. In short, Edwyn was the single most important artist of my formative years.

a young Edwyn
Edwyn's first solo album was a joy, but after that I slowly slipped away from following his pop life. A Girl Like You was the hit Edwyn so richly deserved, and The Possibilities Are Endless starts with a grainy shot of  Edwyn in his prime. A clip from this hit period on US TV. It's the last we see of Edwyn for a long time. Hall and Lovelace's film eschews a lot of conventional documentary formula, instead relying on the audience to soak up much atmosphere for the first 30 minutes or so. The Collins voice and speech, in a deteriorated state following a stroke that basically erased Collins memory and ability to function, is our guide as we view scene after scene of Edwyn's childhood haunt Helmsdale in Scotland.  The film traces Collins through his rehabilitation until he finally learns to speak/sing and move enough to perform a comeback show. The vague nature of the early part of the film gives us a visual document of how detached from the hear and now Collins was following his stroke. As Collins's speech and awareness becomes clearer, so does the film.

Edwyn Collins in The Possibilities Are Endless
It's moving and life affirming watching The Possibilities Are Endless and reminds us of how life can deal blows that take a special kind of willpower to overcome. Collins and his wife Grace Maxwell always offer candour and honesty in their story of recovery. But what lifts this documentary above the ordinary and into the must see is not only it's heavily atmospheric approach, but its lack of sentimentality. Collins, with daily uncomplaining suffrage and help from Maxwell, attempts to rebuild his life into a semblance of where it once was despite improbable odds. That he manages to not only resume his former musician life, but re-educate himself in basic rudimentary human functionality gives us an idea in itself of Collins' substance. The Possibilities Are Endless also reminds us how undervalued and yet influential Collins has been through some of his music featured here. Yes, watching this involved me much. It made me pull out some Orange Juice gems from way back when and reminisce about a younger me. Thanks Edwyn – for everything. "You may think me very naive, taken as true, I only see what I want to see. Avoid eye contact at all costs, What can I do, to see your bright teeth smiling at me..."

Edwyn with Clare Grogan on the front page of the NME


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